At what age do we begin to doubt our parents, question their authority, hate their little habits?
In my son's case it is 11 years, 11 months. Take tonight. He is to go on a three-day school trip tomorrow. The school has sent home a comprehensive list of what to take. I asked my son for two weeks if he had it. He said he hadn't received it yet. So, in a panic, I phoned the school on Thursday. The head of year phone me back and kindly explained that the list had been handed out some time ago, my son should have received one, and should have a very good idea of what to take because it was discussed at length at school. Hubby and I went upstairs to his reeking tip of a bedroom and found it. When son came home, he was instructed to read the list thoroughly and we would start to put it all together over the weekend. Which we did.
Which he later undid. No, he wasn't going to take the pink towels. They're PINK, for chrissake! (I figured that one out on my own; hubby is still confounded.) Yes, he brought home his waterproof jacket from school (which shouldn't have been taken into school, being that it's somewhat expensive). No, wait, he didn't bring it home. He left it on the bus. I blew a gasket at that point. He is grounded when he gets back, and will be in his room finishing his homework and studying for his upcoming exams. Then I counted out five pairs of socks, three pairs of underwear, five T-shirts, two fleeces, three tracksuit bottoms, one heavy jacket and counted them all back in again. I found some non-pink towels. I asked about sun cream, toothpaste, shampoo. I packed the bag. Son sat on his bed, sniffling. I had gone too far in my criticism. I apologised for losing my temper.
"I didn't lose it," he replied. What? No, he didn't lose his temper; I did.
"I didn't lose the jacket," he said.
"Where is it? Is it still in your locker?"
"Did you think it would be better to say you lost it rather than forgot it?"
He slammed some doors and threw some papers and muttered "I hate you" under his breath afterwards.
You must understand something. This is not my son. My son is a very sweet, affectionate child. This is some alien being that has invaded my son's body. My daughter, on the other hand, first told me she hated me when she was four.
"You're not supposed to say that until you're 13," I told her.
Now she is 13. I'm sure she says she hates me a lot, but not to my face. To her friends, to her cat, to Jake, to her brother. But not to me.
Adolescence, I have realised, is the time when all the hangups of a parent's childhood and teen-age years come back to haunt them. Our critical parents' voices are heard once more. Coming out of our mouths.
My children are lucky, I think. They have a privileged life and two parents who love them very much and try not to inflict their insecurities too much on them. They don't have mother who threatens to divorce their father every five minutes and then has a mental breakdown when he leaves her. They don't have a father who decides to have a midlife crisis at 49 and grows a ridiculous mustache to go with the ridiculously young new wife. We are squares because we've decided that's the best way to be to bring up children properly. We weren't always this way.
At one time we hates our parents and questioned their authority.