Parenting: To Push, Or Not To Push

For those of you new to this blog (WELCOME! By the way), my oldest son, Game Dude, GD for short, is 15 going on 12. Catch my drift? He’s a MITE immature for his age.

At least I think so. And I think maybe that’s a large part of my problem.

GD hit puberty, at full speed ahead, at the age of 13. It was so weird, and you hear this all the time, but I swear it’s true in my case, he suddenly grew two inches overnight. He used to whine and complain about the pain in his legs and would have to sleep with a heating pad just to help alleviate the pain. When I asked the doctor about it? “Growing pains.” That’s how fast he physically grew. His bones could barely keep up with his pubescent demands.

In addition to his sudden growth spurt, his voice dropped ten octaves and his body took on a plastic, gangly appearance. His walk changed from an uncertain little boy stride, to a big uncertain boy strut. His arches fell and his suddenly cute, narrow, little feet turned into big, thick, ugly flat man feet. (I’m not a big feet person in general so really, I think all feet, especially men feet, are nasty. Except for baby toes. I have a weakness for baby toes. Go figure).

After the initial shock wore off of seeing my baby (who was born 8 weeks early and who the doctors warned us might never catch up to his peers both physically and mentally *snort*) suddenly sprout into this unknown being, I was left grappling to understand this new … person. My boy has evolved into this strange, emotionally explosive, obstinate, mysterious …. MAN. I can almost pinpoint the day the changes happened, that’s how drastic they were.

He started high school last year. And he appeared to be in the top ten percent of his class as far as puberty progress. His voice was (and still is to a large degree) much deeper than his peers. He’s terribly self-conscious about his deep voice and in fact, told me in a rare sharing moment with me the other day that he thinks one big reason he doesn’t actually TALK is because of his voice. When I asked him if anyone had made fun of his voice, he said no. But that whenever he met anyone new, or talked to an old friend after a certain time period had elapsed, he/she nearly always commented on his voice.

I’ll be perfectly frank with you, the boy has a sexy voice (that almost makes me gag to say that out loud because this is my son we’re talking about, but I’m trying to be impartial and look at him as a young girl would look at him). It’s deep, not baritone deep, but pretty gosh darn close. And I’ve told him that girls really dig a deep voice and dark, mysterious bedroom eyes. (His iris’ are so dark brown, they look nearly black and you can’t see his pupils – they’re dark and foreboding and he’s got one HECK of a death stare, let me tell you).

He stopped me there. His face was flushed with embarrassment and his breathing was erratic – that’s how uncomfortable I had made him feel (and to be honest, again, I wasn’t exactly hip on telling him these things. I don’t WANT some floozy thinking my baby is sexy). And yet, I could tell, by his small, satisfied smile, that my words had indeed sunk in and he was … pleased with himself.

Of course, he’s a teenage boy – that feeling MIGHT have lasted three minutes, if I’m lucky, before the insecurities came pouring back in.

But even after witnessing these changes in him, after being a reluctant passenger on his emotional roller coaster for the past two years, I was still in denial. I refused to budge an inch on bed time and on other various rules we had established for the boys growing up. I looked at him and saw my adorable, shy, charming little boy from yesteryear …

Until we went swimming this past Sunday.

The place was packed. Our park board has made some changes and now our favorite pool, the one where the boys and I went nearly every day, is now only open Thursday through Sunday (that’s another issue – don’t get me started).

It wasn’t until GD peeled off his shirt and jumped into the water to play catch with his little brother that I saw it.

And I’m pretty sure I gasped because it caught the hubs’ attention. GD had a thick patch of dark hair under each of his arms.

And his legs … were so hairy! And is that … omg, is that the beginnings of a mustache I see on his upper lip?! Why did I not notice that before?!

I sort of freaked out, if you want the truth. For you see, GD is at that stage where he’s very self-conscious about his body. So, he wears jeans, all the time. So I’ve never really noticed how his legs have changed. In fact, there is a lot about GD’s body I haven’t noticed before because he’s always been dressed around the house (which as it should be, thankyouverymuch).

So looking at him, at the pool, in just his swim trunks, was … weird. WHO WAS THIS PERSON?! WHERE DID MY LITTLE BOY GO?! I know this sounds cliché but dad gum it, that’s exactly how I felt. It felt like someone had punched me in the chest – I couldn’t breathe and I had little black spots in front of my eyes.

My son has turned into a man and I was still treating him like a little boy! NO WONDER we’ve been at each other’s throats these past months.

Granted, he has PHYSICALLY matured, but he still has a long way to go EMOTIONALLY. Or at least, I think so. And there again, I’m uncertain. He’s immature according to what standards? Mine? Since when did what I think, or my personal standards or definition of maturity become the norm for everyone else?

I keep telling you that I don’t want my little boy to grow up. But now I’m not so certain that’s truly how I feel. I think, a big reason we’ve been prickly with each other is because I want him to grow up faster than he’s ready for. I think, unconsciously, I’ve been pushing him to think about his future, to accept more responsibility, to take his learner’s permit test, because I have subconsciously seen what my conscious mind refused to acknowledge. He is physically maturing, naturally, his emotional development would be maturing, too.

But I don’t think it has. He’s still just a little boy inside and I’m scaring him by trying to push him into adulthood.

And what exactly is my hurry, anyway? WHY again is it so important that he learn to drive right now? Aren’t I opening a can of worms when I don’t necessarily have to? He doesn’t want to learn, he has taken virtually no interest in wanting to learn to drive. We’ve gone shopping for cars, he could only force himself to work up a small amount of enthusiasm and I suspect that small amount was only for our benefit. The husband has printed off the driving manual from the DMV online, and he has only glanced at it. Why are we pushing this issue with him?

I can’t tell you the number of people I’ve talked to who have told me that they either knew someone, or they themselves, didn’t start driving until they were 17/18/19. I think I actually didn’t start driving until I was 17. I don’t remember having a BURNING desire to learn to drive at 15/16. Why am I so hell-bent on pushing GD into driving?

Why am I so hell-bent on pushing the boy to grow up? Because I want him to? Because I think this is how he should behave? Am I really THAT controlling of a person?

Geez. How pathetic. When I step back and look at this issue, really look at it from a practical standpoint, it’s asinine. As a parent, WHY would I want to put myself in a position where I’m wringing my hands worrying about whether he’s okay out there in the “wild” with his friends. WHY would I want to put myself in a position where I’m worrying about him being out, alone, with the opposite sex. WHY would I want to create stressful situations when I don’t have to?

So he hasn’t expressed an interest in driving. So what? He’s only 15. It’s not like he’s 25, jobless and still living at home with us. He’s 15. He’s still trying to navigate his way through life, why am I forcing him to think about navigating our city streets? (And the crazy, stupid drivers that we seem to have an abundance of in these here parts).

This isn’t a contest. There are no winners. He doesn’t have to do everything before, or even the same time as, his peers. He’ll do it when he’s good and ready to do it. I just need to step off, relax, and enjoy him right now, as is, and stop trying to make him into a person I THINK he needs to be.

I honestly don’t understand my problem. I don’t understand my need to push other people into doing what I want them to do. (I don’t just do this with my sons, I find myself doing this, on various levels, with virtually every person I encounter in life). It’s crazy. I realize I’m doing it, and yet, I do it and then am disappointed when people don’t respond the way I want them to.

I really must chill.

I guess I’m just scared of missing that window of opportunity, you know? For example, when kids are little, there is a certain developmentally appropriate age to teach them to ride a bike. And if you miss that time frame, then it’s harder for the kid to learn to ride a bike. Or when an adult reaches a certain age, it’s harder for him/her to learn a foreign language. I don’t want to be so reluctant for my kids to grow up that I miss that window and then they never want to grow up. They end up being slackers, living at home and playing video games in dark rooms, you know?

I guess I’m so focused on wanting him to be successful that I’m pushing him too hard too fast. It’s maddening to me to NOT KNOW when to push and when to back off. I’m going to try, very hard, to back off and follow GD’s lead from now on. I will try, but I’m not making any promises.