The Dude is making life hard for me at the moment. I could really use some new material, and he’s being so… reasonable. He’s a teenager. What happened to the lack of consideration, the unrealistic expectations, the sense of entitlement?
I was not a reasonable teen. I have three siblings — the dependable one, the charismatic one, and the competent one. I am the youngest. The best ground had already been taken. It was only logical that I would be the dramatic one. Who doesn’t love dinner and a show?
I wallowed in my eff-upedness in denial that I was totally and completely normal. I was a living, breathing episode of “My So Called Life,” a show beloved for its realistic depiction of how teenagers put the most mundane of circumstances through the lens of puberty and call it an existential crisis. It came into being a decade and a half after I entered my own teen years. I was emo before emo was cool.
The Dude is more emotionally reserved, like his father, so it’s easy for emo-Mom to forget that not every teen makes each day a personal after-school special. He showed his emotions more readily when he was younger. When he got really frustrated, he was prone to meltdown. I’d tell him to breathe deep and focus, while he would continue to work us both into a state of exhaustion. Finally, I’d tell him to take a break, and I’d bake him cookies. It was difficult for both of us, but at least I knew he cared.
Now, the Dude reserves his emotional outbursts for watching sports on television.
He was racing the clock for a project he’d left undone for too long. He wasn’t displaying the sense of urgency I felt the situation warranted.
Then I nagged.
Then I lectured.
Then he said, “Don’t assume I’m not nervous just because I don’t show it.” Then he added, “And to think you used to tell me to calm down all the time. Now that I can do that, you want the opposite.”
I hate it when he has a point.
“I’ll tell you what. I’ll put up a sign that says ‘freaking out on the inside.’ Will that make you feel better?”
I told him that wouldn’t be necessary. I don’t nag him about his sense of urgency anymore.
The other day he was walking around the house with the hood of his sweatshirt pulled over his head. So I asked him if he was a gangstah, or if I should turn up the heat.
“No Mom,” he said, in that what-don’t-you-understand-about-this tone. “I’m not cold. I’m emotional.”
He’s a teen after all. He doesn’t wear his heart on his sleeve. Apparently it’s on his hoodie.
“Should I bake you some cookies?”
He smiled. Some things they don’t grow out of.
Words by J. B. Everett
Photograph “Lottie” by Cat © 2010 Creative Commons