February 8, 2012

Wan

I've been so wan. More like "wa," because I'm too wan to say wan. In fact, more like sitting in a chair not saying wa either.

Part of it, I think, was trying to read The Flame Alphabet, which had a premise I could really identify with: the sound of children's voices becomes toxic for adults. But the book itself was so grey and heavy and nauseating and confusing, I didn't even get halfway through it. (Lionel Shriver's review is pretty much exactly the way I felt about it.)

Furthermore, in the book there are many conversations with the contemptuous, argumentative early-teens daughter of the household, and let's just say I can FULLY identify with that but don't feel like seeking out more exposure to it. I'm leaning heavily these days on Empty Nest Feather's post Desk Cleaning, which is only partly about desk-cleaning and has given me a new private nickname for Rob ("Mr. Eye-Rolling Contempt"). I'm also leaning on her post The Last of the Teens, which gives me some hope that I won't be this miserable for the next fifteen years.

This morning William was apparently doing the verbal equivalent of "I'm not touching you, I'm not touching you," and Rob suddenly EXPLODED with rage. The reaction was understandable but not allowed, and I told him so, and told him he needed to take a break from his computer turn. Then, because I sympathized with his position, I lectured William at length within earshot of Rob, discussing pointedly how much I sympathized with Rob.

Rob sulked ostentatiously for twenty minutes or so. As I helped get another child ready for school, he asked why William was allowed to "just get away with it." I explained what should already have been clear, which is that William ALSO got punished: William's punishment was the lecture, while Rob's was a break from the computer---and also that although William's behavior was indeed obnoxious, it wasn't against the rules in the same way "screaming out in rage" was. I reiterated my empathy, and also reiterated that he could not react that way even if it felt justified. He claimed justification = appropriate. I remained calm (and to my tremendous credit, did NOT later use this as an opportunity to ask if in that case it was appropriate for me to smack him in the mouth), and said that part of my job was to civilize him: that he could not yell out like that in school or in his future workplace, and so he needed to learn not to do it.

He claimed that at school it would never happen, because teachers "have the time" to make sure it doesn't; they don't have to "choose their battles," they can deal with ALL of them. What a nice little dig, putting in references to recent calm responses I've made to his snotty interrogations, and using verbal air-quotes. That's when I became no longer calm. I had been deliberately and repeatedly sympathetic/empathetic; I had doled out a very light and understanding punishment; I had calmly explained the ideas behind the rules. And now Mr. IRRITATING McASININE was saying that it was MY FAULT that he had yelled. And this AFTER he has REPEATEDLY told me that the teachers are NOT consistent and DO choose their battles and DON'T always enforce the rules for everyone, with me offering REPEATED sympathy, discussion, and soothing explanations that defended the teachers without failing to legitimize his precious adolescent FEELINGS!

It is very, very unpleasant, after deliberately avoiding choosing a spouse who would force me to live my life with this kind of crap, to end up living with it anyway.

39 comments:

Melissa Haworth said...

I'm dealing with a lot of six-year-old attitude/moodiness over here and this post is NOT making me feel very optimistic :(

Hope things are better soon and you at least get the 'n' back in wan.

Megan said...

Swistle, I KNOW. I have a 14 year old step-son and it is just miserable right now. I hope they move through this horrible phase quickly. Gosh, I hope it is a phase.

Anonymous said...

I know it's not really the point but, "Mr. IRRITATING McASININE" made me laugh out loud, literally! At least you've still got a sense of humor about it all! :)

Christy said...

Oh no. It makes me think of how one is supposed to talk their baby/toddler through things to help them express themselves and to show empathy. Like, "I know you're teething and it hurts and you're tired and..."

I kind of want to wait 10 years and tell my son, "I know you can't express yourself since your brain chemistry has gone wonky and you've literally gone a little CRAZY, but..."

I can imagine how ticked off that would have made me at the same age.

MomQueenBee said...

This, too, shall pass. Not quickly enough, of course, but it shall pass. And Mr.IRRITATING McASININE will make me laugh forever.

Saly said...

I...Oh God.

Maybe Rob will be the worst of your moody teens? Maybe it will be smooth sailing from here?

I don't know.

I was a raging bitch from the time I was...oh, 11 until I was probably 15 or so. I fear that I (we all are!!) am just in for it as our kids get up in to tween stage.

My sympathies to you.

kate said...

"It is very, very unpleasant, after deliberately avoiding choosing a spouse who would force me to live my life with this kind of crap, to end up living with it anyway. "

Not to laugh at your pain, but that is just hilarious. And also makes me dread the future, since my oldest is only four.

Melissa R. said...

I'm down to my last teenager (2 stepsons and 3 daughters) and they have all gone through a phase (in fact, we used "Surly Boy" and "Permanent PMS" for a few years) that was quite varied. One child's phase was brief and one (21 yr old) is STILL in it so I'm guessing it depends on the child which sucks because it's not like you can say...oh thank goodness...only xxx left of this BS.
The physical part of parenting seems to be about over for me but the mental part is alive and well and slowly driving me insane (4 in college, one in high school)

Oh! I didn't mean to be one of those "just you wait" people because that has always ticked me off but seriously? I'm just so DONE with this late teen/young adult stage. They BELIEVE they are adults and yet, no one is supporting themselves... so yeah, not an adult until you are paying your own way.
*pant* *pant* *pant*

Oh. Wow. I needed that vent! Thanks!

LizScott said...

Ooooooooooof your last sentance socked me in the gut. In um, a good way? Maybe not, but a way nonetheless.

All I have to say in relation to this is that when I became a stepmother I started feeling extremely uncomfortable with a daily reminder of how awful I must have been as a kid, and once I became a stepmother of a TEENAGER, I full on started calling my mom to apologize explicitly

Mrs. Irritation said...

Holy shit. I can say it honestly never occurred to me that moody teen boys would be an issue. All anyone ever talks about it how moody girls are. Sigh.

Along with everyone else, I do have to admit that Mr. IRRITATING McASININE made me laugh hard. & is now what I'm calling my dog.

Slim said...

So it's OK to do something because you are being provoked by someone else's irritating behavior?

Beware, all you jaywalkers, loud cellphone users, providers of unsolicited advice . . . .

MoMMY said...

I am currently living with FOUR, I repeat FOUR, Mr. IRRITATING McASININE. Thank you for naming them. So much easier than trying to remember all their names. They certainly are not the dear sweet boys my husband and I so painstakingly named in utero.

Stacie said...

...and now you know why I sometimes take my Kindle into the bathroom and not emerge for an hour.

Josefina said...

HAHAHA. I felt horrible for you as I read this because I could FEEL the rage boiling up, but the end part about avoiding it with the spouse but getting it anyway from the kid? SO funny. Because, MMM HMM.

Brenna said...

I also have a 12 year-old (a girl, though), and I wished we were neighbors so we could hold each other's hand through this time. I struggle with choosing my battles, because as much as I want to instill respectfulness, I could drive all of us crazy trying to punish every eye-roll and snide remark. Just the other day I was daydreaming outloud, and I told my husband how wonderful it would be if I were hard of hearing, whenever I couldn't take one more snotty remark, I could just turn off my hearing-aid.

Tess said...

Man, I STAMPEDED to the comments to read more about this.

Our 3 girls are only 6ish, but already Tosc worries about this, specifically your comment about avoiding the behavior in a spouse and having to deal with it in kids.

Melissa R said...

Oh! I wanted to add because I just remembered--my oldest daughter displays the EXACT characteristics/personality behaviors that partly led to the demise of my marriage and seeing that play out with your own child is particularly troubling and probably something for a therapist to have a hey-day (hayday?) with. Took me a few years to figure out why she and I had issues and then I realized...Oh! Because she is EXACTLY like (even in looks!) her father.....that I, um, divorced. Oooof.

Anonymous said...

I think my browser ate my comment.

Anyway, I was going to say, that my book club is reading a book called The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine. She makes some comparisons in her book between the male and female brain that makes me think that her other book The Male Brain would be really helpful to anyone parenting a teenage boy.

She deals with the physiological development of the brain and how it relates to gender at different stages of a person's life. It's been really interesting reading it and it's helped me understand my daughter (and my sons) so much more. It's not really a 'self-help' book as much as a 'informative' book, but I found the information to be extremely helpful.

Swistle said...

Anonymous- ADDED TO LIBRARY LIST. Thank you!

Misty said...

I literally "OOoooo-ed" at the computer when I read what he said. That was a deliberate attack. Deliberate! Punish him from breathing for the next 40 years!

Brother...has exceptionally similar issues. Unfortunately, he is just like me, so he gets it honestly. Nature + Nurture = Holy shit, why am I such a bitch? Anyway. I am no help. I just punish the little dork when he is mouthy. Heh.

Elizabeth said...

So I feel like what you're telling me (the woman has been up all night with her 18 month old who won't sleep and whose MIL is arriving on a 6:30 plane and hasn't cleaned the house yet and can't because the 18 month old has kept her since 4 AM AND WON'T SLEEP) is that someday these children are going to be WORSE!? WORSE THAN THEY ALREADY ARE?! Why does anyone have these wretched beasts!
In other news, I think you would like "Ready Player One" based on the time you read and liked that other computery book where the computer takes over the world after the dude dies, etc.

Val said...

I have no advice, Swistle. Maybe it's a day for one of your presents-to-self? :) 'Hope your day is improving. ♥

Shalini said...

So my kids were basically doing the same thing today, where one antagonized the other until the other punched him in the chest, and I SO didn't want to punish the puncher. Because the punch was deserved. I ended up punishing them BOTH in the end and then went to furiously scrub a toilet because I don't have any cool vices like alcohol in the morning or punching my brother.

Swistle said...

Elizabeth- Thanks! Adding to library list!

Maggie said...

Ah man. My son is 9 and am already getting some lovely glimpses of this kind of behavior that make husband and I want to run away. I know we are doomed to regular behavior like this for awhile when he's a teen and the thought of it makes me despair. Ugggghhhhh.

Jessica said...

I think I'll re-read this post whenever my husband tells me we can't have more babies and I get sad. (We're not done yet, but I could keep having babies forever and he only wants 1 more)

Clarabella said...

And THEN you smacked him in the mouth? Holy hell, but that is some snotty attitude. I hope he shakes it off, and SOON.
I am totally stealing that part of our jobs as parents is to civilize them.

CARRIE said...

I have no advice to give. I did purchase the book Love and Logic Magic --The Teen Years even though my kids are years away from this stage, but I generally like the ideas of this series of books.

However, reading your post made me think that it would be impossible to remain loving and logical towards a teen who is not being loving and is highly illogical. Oh wait, that is a 3-year-old? No, a teen? No, a 3-year-old?

My head hurts.

Still Playing School said...

Remember that you are raising him, and therefore living with this, so that his future wife won't have to! <3

Stephanie said...

This is what I have always feared about having children. (One of the things, anyway.) I keep telling my husband the deal is that HE gets them when they hit double digits in age; I can handle babies and toddlers (at least thus far; we're only 2.5 years in) but I have never, ever ever ever dealt well with teenagers. EVAR. Not even fictional ones in my child development studies.

One note of positivity, if I may? That Rob is comfortable enough telling you, essentially, what's riling him up. That sounds weird because what he was saying was irrational and illogical and not in line with reality, BUT the fact that he will say words that express some level of his feelings to you is a sign of solid parenting for many years. Impressive. You will no doubt both make it through this. And have a strong relationship!

Teens. Yikes. Eep. Petrified.

K... said...

Oh Swistle, this made me laugh because it reminded me so much of my brother at your son's age. My mother NEVER raised a hand to us ever, BUT this one time my brother pushed her to far I think she nearly broke his arm. We ended up laughing about it for years. Just so you know he turned out FINE, he is a very successful district manager making a 6 digit income.

Tell me I did not just post this for the world to see. Hang in there it will pass and chances are you will laugh about it ;)

Doing My Best said...

Oh, yes. Yes, yes, yes, yes *nodding head in complete, discouraged sympathy*.

Many, MANY times, I have thought, "If I had ANY other job and somebody regularly talked to/treated me like this, I would, for the sake of my mental health, FIND A DIFFERENT JOB!"

And I worry, because a certain former occupant of my womb has been like this ever since his entrance into this world, and I can't bear to contemplate what "even worse than he has been" might look like.

In all the reading I've done specific to the development of boys, their need for gross motor physical activity is FREQUENTLY mentioned. Since we don't have any wood to chop, or stables to shovel out, I send certain, testy people outside to ride/scooter/run laps around the block (BRISKLY and without stopping), run back and forth in the backyard, do 100 jumping jacks outside, or wash the outside windows (I only wish we had snow for someone to shovel!). It DOES seem to help, but, even if it didn't, I would STILL make them do those things because then *I* get a break from the constant stream of verbal fiery darts.

Joanne said...

This scares the bejeezus out of me because I think about it all the time, the fact that I crafted a certain life for myself, tried to make good choices, tried to avoid prison and here I am, daily barely avoiding the freaking klink. Also I like to think that six, four, two and newborn are the hard years and if it gets a lot worse, I just - I wish for deafness, often. Anyways, I'm sorry, how awful to be spoken to like that! I honestly don't understand why this job has to be so crappy.

Leeann said...

I have a 13 year old son. A 16 year old daughter who is currently not being $hitty and a 10 year old son who is ALWAYS a button pusher round out the group.

I had NO FREAKING IDEA that parenting would get this hard. Comparatively, the early years feel like a fricking cake walk. The exhaustion is UNREAL.

I can relate cause I'm right there with you.

Pickles and Dimes said...

Mr. IRRITATING McASININE made me laugh out loud.

Kelsey said...

I feel like we get glimpses of what Harper's teenage years will be like - it is...troublesome.

The spouse comment made me laugh out loud.

d e v a n said...

If only we could choose the personalities of our children! Oh, how I've wished it a time or two!

Nellig said...

Interesting article about this area here: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203806504577181351486558984.html
("What's Wrong With the Teenage Mind" by Alison Gopnik)

which includes the comforting words "there is even some evidence that higher IQ is correlated with delayed frontal lobe development".

MrsDragon said...

It is very, very unpleasant, after deliberately avoiding choosing a spouse who would force me to live my life with this kind of crap, to end up living with it anyway.

I do not have children yet. This is one of my great fears. (It seems kind of overblown to call it a fear. Great worry? One of many things that occasionally keep me up at night?). All I know is that my husband is the only family I was able to choose and I chose well. I'm hoping for heaps of luck when we have kids.