Tuesday, February 9, 2010

On The Fence

As Jacob moves closer to adolescence, his behavior has become something I liken to climbing a fence.

Some days, he's still on this side. He wants me with him constantly: when he's brushing his teeth, he wants me in the bathroom with him. When he's done in the shower, he wants me to towel and blow dry his hair for him (he likes the warmth). At bedtime, he wants me to tuck him in and sit with him a while to talk about his day's trials and tribulations.

But other days, as he tries out the other side of the fence, I am an embarrassment, an albatross, an annoyance. Lately, for example, if I am singing along to a catchy tune on the radio while making dinner, rather than sing along with me as he used to, or even smirking at me, he will throw me a "get over yourself, Mom" look. It's a visual version of giving snaps, as if he wonders why I bother, for my voice could never trump his. A look that says I should know better than to show such displays in my kithen (forget about outside the house!), that I should just stick to cooking and leave the singing to him.

Unless he does something that is outright rude, in these situations I usually laugh at him or sing even louder. But this week, perhaps fueled by his performance at the school Variety Show (and the accolades that followed from friends and strangers), he envisions himself as the next Michael Buble, and actually had the nerve to tell me to stop singing.

'Tween or not, hormones or no hormones, I gave it right back to him.

"Dude, who do you think *gave* you that set of pipes, that rhythm, that musical ability you love so much? Toys 'R' Us? Noooo. Your dad? Noooo. He couldn't carry a tune if you put it in a backpack. It was ME, boy, singing to you even before you were born, using ASL to sign the words of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star to you as a baby, paying for your piano lessons and showing you how to place your hands on the keyboard. All RIGHT then!" Now it was my turn to give snaps.

OK, so when I step back, I understand this is just the beginnings of Jacob's budding independence, his need to feel separate yet capable, confident and talented. And as a kid, it's all about putting himself above others to prove to himself he really does have worth.

I concede that maybe sometimes I respond more like a kid than necessary. Perhaps it makes me sad to think of my little boy growing up. But I find that, as he climbs that fence between childhood and adolescence, turning occasionally to throw rocks at me down on the ground, that this is the best way to get my point across to him. And if I can make both of us laugh in the process, hopefully I can slow his journey just a little bit, and the climb won't be any harder than it has to be, for either of us.

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