I was chatting with a friend recently about our teen years and the stories were the same. While I never had outright bullying, there was a lot of ugly teasing and mean girls. I grew up in an area and a time where everyone was supposed to be exactly the same. My friend talked about how, when he turned 14, all of his friends pretended that they didn't know him. These kids who used to walk down the street to pick him up on the way to school all of a sudden, they would just yell rude comments and keep on going. One of my worst memories from high school was when two best friends just didn't pick me up one night, and then pretended they never even knew me after that. Like we had not been friends for the past however many years. Like I hadn't slept over umpteen times. Like, what the hell just happened? So, yeah, as Dex entered middle school - that time when friends traditionally get judgey - I have been a little, let's say... twitchy. I try not to impose my past experiences too much, because not only is Dex an old soul - he is most definitely his own person. He has generally not really cared what anyone thought and has gone his own way. Part of it, I know, is all that diversity we fight for - one benefit seems to be (thus far) kids like to be different. Less pressure to wear exactly the same clothes and do exactly the same things. I am pretty sure we all owe Glee a huge debt of gratitude.
I hated Snapchat from the moment it was released. As someone who has a decade-old blog, the idea of sending quick photos that disappear made no sense to me, other than for sexting or bullying people. I tried it, didn't like it, deleted it. With the arrival of Stories and Discover on Snapchat, it's gaining more and more power, and not just with teens. Brands are creating pages there and I wanted to know why, so I re-downloaded it this weekend. The interface continues to be terrible. Non-intuitive other than the idea that yes, I am supposed to take photos and share them... somewhere. I can "discover" little snippets from brands and swipe around to look at content in a completely disorganized way. I can press and hold to view... something?
As Dex grows up, it feels like every day we find a new way to communicate with each other. If you have kids, you will remember those early days when every time you turned around there was another milestone. That is why many of us started blogs, to capture all of that. Entering teenhood is another renaissance - but the milestones are so subtle, you have to squint to see them. Dex has a big project that is due this week, something that could frankly change everything in our lives. He has been a bit lackadaisical about it and we've been teetering on that parental edge where you don't know when to push, when to cajole, or when to let them do what they do - pass or fail. It's a big project. I keep reminding myself he is only 12. The pressure these kids have in middle school is astronomical. But if he wants this, he has to get it done.
Bryan stayed home with Dex for the first two years; it's always given them a special bond. I have never been jealous (OK, maybe just a little), but I have always attributed their ability to get along to time spent and compatible interests. Not to say that Dex and I don't have a good relationship, or that we don't have our own special things we do together. It's just that we've always been able to push each others buttons more than anyone else, ever. As Dex approaches teenhood (he's nearly 12.5), it's becoming more and more clear this is actually because we are so much alike. We both like (need) to be right. We both get defensive (angry) when pushed into a corner. We both get emotional (illogical) when we feel attacked. One thing no one ever tells you when having kids is how it feels to parent your own face. A lot of people talk about how Dex looks like Bryan, and he does. But his eyes are mine. So I am looking into my own face as I watch my son become a full-blown teen and exhibit full-blown teen behaviors. When I mention this to my mom, I only get a little snicker - or sometimes silence - basically to be interpreted as: PAYBACKS.
Our son will be 12 next month and for the most part, except for his premature beginnings, his life has been relatively stress free. As parents, we try to keep it that way, but we also feel it is our job to tell him about the world. We've always shared news at age appropriate levels. He's known about September 11 since very early on, especially since his birthday is close to that date, but in general terms. His school has been great; talking about tragedy with increasing detail as his maturity grew. However, we have been at a loss how to explain the happenings in Ferguson, Missouri, this week. Yes, we told him what happened to Trayvon Martin. Yes, the legal system failed Trayvon as much as the vindictive racism of George Zimmerman. But in Ferguson, there are so many things I can't even believe, how do I explain it to my kid?
Dex is at summer camp in the park again this year. It's had its ups and downs this time around, partly because he is at the upper age limit for the camp. He still loves hanging with his friends, swimming, crafts - all that summer camp stuff. But he is getting really frustrated with the methods of some of the counselors, who are treating them like kids half their age. Recently he got in trouble for something and was sent to time out. Fine, except they never really explained what he did wrong. Partly because it's a big camp full of kids running around like maniacs in the sun, but partly because they just don't seem to understand that the older kids will want to have more explanation.
That's the term Dex uses to refer to cursing. "Colorful language." I am not even sure where he picked it up, but he is not very fond of it. "He is annoying. He uses colorful language all the time." The funny thing is, I have quite the potty mouth myself, although I have tried hard over the years to curb it in front of Dex. And generally, we have not made cursing an issue around the house. We have always talked about it in terms of consequences.