Thursday, April 7, 2011

Tween time

Tim is singing at the top of his lungs in Spanish.

I’m not sure why. I’m not sure why he’s singing; I’m not sure why he’s singing in Spanish as opposed to English; I’m not sure why he’s singing so loud.

But he’s a pre-teen – and in less than six months, he’ll be a full-fledged teen, no more “pre” about it – and I’m discovering that it turns out we in fact will not be the one household that avoids dealing with adolescent mood swings. We’ll be like all the other households with 12- or 13- or 14-year-olds, trying to figure out why our child is jubilant one minute and catatonic the next; refusing to put the sweatshirt he’s worn for the past six days in the laundry while also taking daily showers these days, whereas up ‘til last month it was a struggle to get him to wash more than once or twice a week.

I suspect mood swings are more difficult for other parents to take than for me, and I say that not because I’m a more patient or tolerant parent but because for us, there’s an unexpected up side. As a younger child, Tim had steady moods, but they tended to be on the somewhat subdued side. He was almost never jubilant, unless it was at the end of a victorious baseball game or coming home from the circus. These days he emanates jolliness and good cheer at the strangest times: getting off the bus on a Tuesday afternoon, for example, or leaving the supermarket with me. There are the bleaker moods as well, particularly in the morning over breakfast when he doesn’t want to begin the new day just yet, but I’m used to those. It’s the bounciness that’s a novelty to me.

So if the past few weeks have been any indication, we’re in luck with our nearly-teen. He’s happy with everything that being almost 13 entails: middle school, with its classes seriously focused on academic progress; school dances; even the local cultural events I’ve been dragging him to for years suddenly appeal to him if it means he can sit with his friends. What’s more, he’s almost always pleasant and polite to me these days (other than during those early-morning breakfasts), in part because he is so often requesting permission to use my computer so that he can instant-message with his friends.

We still have another child to squire through the pre-teen years, and she’s the one who has been blessed with a sunny disposition since birth, so the tables might turn. Fair is fair; I’m afraid we’re owed a stormy adolescence somewhere along the way. But right now we’re enjoying the ride: daily showers, text messaging, study sessions at the library, and everything else that it unexpectedly encompasses so far.

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