Friday, April 12, 2013

Prepubertal boy is prepubertal

Warning: Novel ahead.

M1 gets angry on a regular basis.  I'm cool with that.  He's a kid.  It happens.  He throws his little tantrums (OK, so they usually aren't little, but comparatively speaking...) and we move on.

Yesterday, though, the Sign of the Hormone appeared.  I've seen it off and on lately - one day he'll want to snuggle and be my little boy and I know everything and I'm wonderful, and the next he wants nothing to do with me because clearly I'm here only to ruin his life and I know nothing and he's ready to run the place without me - but yesterday was a real eye-opener.

It actually started Wednesday night.  I had taken M1 to swim, and when we got home, Oz met us at the door.  M1 had been given a plasma ball for his birthday, and it had been sitting on his dresser.  We don't know exactly what happened, but Oz had been drawing water to handwash dishes (thanks, Babe!) when he heard a huge noise, almost like an explosion, from upstairs. 

Warning: When these break, they will ruin your day
He hurried upstairs and discovered the plasma ball had fallen from the dresser and shattered, and shards of glass had flown all over M1's bedroom.  We don't know if M2 was responsible, a cat was responsible, if it simply fell, or if it was a case of spontaneous plasma combustion (doubtful, since the thing wasn't even plugged in), but regardless, it made a giant mess of the room.  Oz spent the next hour cleaning up as much as he could, but we still found pieces of glass in his bed and around the room for the next day and a half.

Anyway, during the cleaning process, Oz moved M1's dresser to try to get to pieces of glass that had flown behind it.  M1's dresser sits about an inch off the floor, but stuffed underneath it was more stuff than you could imagine would be physically possible.  We call this habit 'stashing.'  He's done it since he was tiny, and it's become a particularly bad habit over the years.  Anyway, since it was already 9 p.m. and M1 had been up since about 6, he was exhausted, so we told him to go to bed and deal with it in the morning.

Morning came.  We did most of our schoolwork, and I asked M1 if he wouldn't mind putting the stashed items away before lunch.  This gave him approximately an hour to put it all away, a time frame that was more than reasonable given the contents and size of the pile.  I checked in regularly during that hour to make sure that M1 was on task, and he assured me he was.  At noon, I walked in and discovered a perfectly clean floor.  All seemed well.  Until I picked up the antique pocketwatch case and opened it.  It was empty.  Now, I KNEW that the watch had been in the pile and just figured that M1 had forgotten where the case was when he put the watch away.  So I asked him, "Where's the watch?  Let's put it in here."

"I dunno."

"Is it in your miscellaneous drawer?" I asked as I walked over to said drawer to have a look (both kids have a 'miscellaneous drawer' where all things that don't have a place are allowed to live).  I had to force the drawer open because of the amount of clothing and K'Nex and other bits and pieces stuffed into it.  This all went on the floor while I was looking for the watch.  Meanwhile, M1 was shrieking, "You weren't supposed to look in there!!!"


I finally found the watch - and the rest of the stashed pile - stuffed into his bottom nightstand drawer, not a single thing actually taken care of.  All in all, I emptied three drawers of their stashed contents and asked him to put things - mostly clothes and cash - away.

This triggered the anger.  "I hate you!  I'm leaving!" was the first thing I heard, to which I assured him if he walked out of the house, he would not have a bedroom upon returning.  "FINE!  But I'm not cleaning this!  YOU made the mess, so YOU clean it up!"  All of this was accompanied by hopping - literally hopping - rage and shrieks of agony and punctuated by him flinging himself on the bed or hitting the wall.  Finally, in sheer frustration, I asked him if he really thought I was enjoying this.

He spat a hateful answer back.  "WELL, YOU MUST BE, BECAUSE YOU DO IT ALL THE TIME."

Oh, no, you didn't.  Now, when I was a child (imagine that statement accompanied by a puffing out of the chest and haughty expression), if I'd said something like that, I'd have gotten the tar beat out of me.  Thankfully, I have evolved, and I didn't smack sense into him.  The thought flashed through my mind, but I didn't do it.  Instead, I marched him downstairs and made him watch while I grabbed a trash bag.  Then he had to watch as I marched back upstairs and proceeded to throw away anything that I didn't deem of intrinsic or sentimental value to the boy.  I left his clothes, any cash, and all cards or other mementos.  The rest got pitched.  Then I informed him that if he wanted to live in my house, he would start treating it like a house and not his personal trash can, and that any time from now on that I found anything stashed, it would be instantly pitched, and it would no longer matter if it was money, clothing, or an item of sentimental value.  If he wanted to be an adult living under my roof, I would treat him like one.

Then I left him to it.  Half an hour later he emerged, tearful but calm, to tell me that he was sad that things had to escalate to the level they had for him to get the point.  I hugged him and told him that I still loved him but that I would not tolerate disrespect; I would be happy to talk and negotiate but hopping rage really wasn't the answer.  He cleaned up his room - properly this time - and all seemed fine.

Until this morning, when the first thing I heard out of him as he dragged his overly-full hamper down the stairs was, "Mom, this thing is really heavy, because YOU made me put in every shirt except one and every pair of pants except two when you cleaned out my stashed drawers yesterday."

Jesus Christ Superstar Almighty, REALLY?!?  I didn't even dignify that one other than to suggest that he adjust his attitude before continuing with his day.  Twenty minutes later, we had tears again as he informed me, "Mom, I'm just always really angry with you these days and I don't know why, and I'm sorry, and I love you!  Can you help me?"

I hugged him and assured him that it's all normal, and that we would get through it together.  I promised him that I wouldn't do what my mother did (tell me to go to my room and close the door and stay there till I could speak nicely to people, which caused me to stay there until I was 18). 

Still, yikes.  I'm not ready for this.


farmwifetwo said...

Mine was nice enough to put on a show that the teacher heard last night over the phone. She'd called and the kid was in the office. I deal with my narcissist constantly doing just that. At 13 I don't sympathize nor suck up. Narcissists hate that. Tough.

skrink said...

You are so not alone in this. I am hearing the exact same thing from dd (11) - "I am SO MAD AT YOU and I don't know why!!". Rage? Check. Runaway threats? Check. Snotty, disrespectful comments? Check. I think I'll need to up my meds for the next few years...

Anonymous said...

"Yikes!" indeed. Personally, I think the trash bag thing was a smart move. It showed M1 that you were serious.

That transition to adulthood is tough. I'm not ready either, yet I find myself starting so many sentences these days with, "You are a young man..."

Good luck, and if you find an instruction manual to rearing pre-teens and teens, let me know.

Beth said...

I'm just going to mail mine to your house in a few years. No looking forward to this. At All.

Sarah said...

I will totally mail them back. I'll be in the throes of it with both of them at that point, and after today, I'm pretty sure I will NOT make it out the other side alive. I'm asking Oz to put me into a voluntary coma for the next 8-10.