There’s a metamorphosis happening at our place and I’m not expecting to see a butterfly emerge any time soon.
Having parented, (and survived) two teenage girls, I was fairly confident I had the whole puberty- mother thing under control and besides, everyone knows that boys are easier than girls, right? Well, Taine turns 13 today and I’m not quite so confident anymore.
My beautiful little, tousle haired boy is transforming, before my very eyes, into a man. Like a less verdant version of the Hulk, his body is morphing into its adult shape, long and lean with man hands sprouting from the ends of his arms. You can literally see his bones growing and stretching under the skin; the puppy fat falling away to reveal an angular and less awkward new shape. Every window in our house has become a mirror that measures the change in his abs and biceps! His feet are already bigger than his father’s, signaling a further growth spurt on the horizon and increasingly more expensive visits to the shoe shop.
The fridge and the pantry are often empty; despite my daily shopping they are devoid of proteins and carbohydrates- but that doesn’t stop him from endlessly opening their doors to window shop.
The eyes that used to look beseechingly at me to pick him up and carry him are suddenly at eye level with my own and more often defiant than compliant. He’s developed a passive resistance that leaves his bedroom chaos untouched and his homework wallowing in the bottom of his bag.
The timid creature who used to worry about his own safety has dissolved into a testosterone fuelled risk taker, full of bravado and c’est la vie. His voice has dropped an octave and his constant stream of conversation has been reduced to the odd grunt or a single letter text message.
His teddy, Lamby, lies abandoned in a corner of his room somewhere, smothered by the discarded dirty clothes and surrounded by other abandoned relics of his boyhood. That poor stuffed sheep has traveled the world with him and now it doesn’t even rate a spot on the bed! One night my little boy went to bed calling out his usual chorus of “Love you Mum, love you Dad”. The next morning he started calling me Anne and squirming when I tried to give him a hug.
I remember when I was pregnant with Taine, a miracle, conceived around my 45th birthday and born just before my 46th. I had so many fears about my own ability to cope with a baby, mostly fuelled by the asked, and unasked questions of everyone else.
"How will you manage the broken sleep at your age?" (Actually it was good training for the insomnia of menopause.)
"Won’t he miss out on doing stuff with you because you’re so old?" (So far we’ve walked the length and breadth of New York and London, cycled around Uluru and Paris and climbed the Old Man of Storr and the Sydney Harbour Bridge together. I think I’m doing OK ;-)
"What if people think you’re his grandmother?" (This hasn’t happened yet but I’ve since discovered that there’s nothing wrong with being a grandma!)
"How will you cope with a teenager when you’re 60?" (I’ll get back to you on this one).
"Aren’t you sad that you probably won’t see his grandchildren?" (Yes, I was actually asked this question and yes, I am. But my parents didn’t see their grandchildren either and they were in their 20s when I was born).
As a result of these questions, I spent a lot of Taine’s childhood willing him to grow up while I was still here to protect him. Now I regret my own foolishness at wishing that magical time away. Those long nights when nothing would calm him but a cuddle in our bed, the early mornings when he just wanted to get up and play, the endless questions of ‘why, Mummy?’
Because now, suddenly, here he is, an (almost) self sufficient adolescent and from my past experience I know how quickly the next few years will pass. When I blink a few more times he’ll be finished school and gone from home. My wonderful, extended twilight of hands on parenting will be over. Today, as I watch the last vestiges of ‘twelvie’ disappear, I have to remind myself that it’s ok to miss the little boy that he was but more important to celebrate the man he is becoming.
Happy Birthday Insano
(And just to test his resilience, here's a video of Taine's theory of the world from many years ago)