I doubt there is any life experience quite as complex and surprising as parenting an 8-year-old. As a mother you realize that each age has its charms and challenges, but there is something completely unexpected and edgy about this 8-year-old thing...we have entered a new frontier.
For one thing, his body has become his own. Gone are the days when I felt I knew his physical being as well as I know my own. He dresses himself behind closed doors and selects his wardrobe based apparently on the prime directive of some chaotic alternate world dedicated to egregious color combinations and nonsensical layering. We do not hug and cuddle like we used to do. We don't have our long weekend mornings of hugs and stories leading to pancakes...now he gets up before we do and begins his mysterious rituals with the computer and his supremely important collections of trading cards and comic books. He has suddenly, almost overnight it seems, stretched out and grown into a lanky, bony fellow immersed in secret worlds of his own design.
And the mouth on this kid! This year he knows everything. Even more than before. Everything. And he is not even near puberty yet. It is most disturbing. I mean, I'm not even allowed to be the expert on ANYTHING anymore -- not even "mom" stuff like compost and grilled cheese. It bruises one's ego a bit.
I can handle the know-it-all-stuff, though, it's the incessant lawyering and backtalk that gets me. I start off each day swearing to treat our relationship like a moving meditation. He is my guru, I tell myself, my great teacher. I will take our experiences and learn from them.
Yes. This is what I tell myself. But by suppertime I am nearly apoplectic from explaining for the millionth time why we can't just leave the supper sitting on the stove and run to Wal-Mart Right Now so he can buy a pack of Pokemon cards that he can't live without...and then I veer insanely from apoplectic to morose and expasperated as he breaks into an absolutely stunning display of heaving sobs over my millionth 'no' to that same question. "You say 'no' to EVERYTHING," he shrieks, arms flailing dramtically over his head to illustrate that "everything" includes even the very air around him. "You never, EVER do anything I say." I am, indeed, a monster.
And so later, Baby Daddy and I find ourselves, after watching yet another incredible performance prompted by our announcement of bedtime, exhausted and chuckling, then giggling, then laughing hysterically over our situation. You see, during the bedtime eruption I found myself stuttering and nearly slobbering stupidly with frustration as I tried to reply to him...honestly, I swear my eyes were twitching. It was truly shocking. And Baby Daddy and I laughed.
"I think I'm developing a nervous twitch," I say ruefully.
"Well," says BD, "If someone asks you if you have Turret's Syndrome, you can just tell them 'No, I have an 8-year-old.'"
Truer words were never spoken.