Teenagers are a weird and wonderful subspecies of the human race. Living in close proximity of one (possibly two) such teenagers provides me with ample opportunity for some anthropological observations.
The first thing that strikes me looking closely at my 14yo son, is his complete inertia. The once so sporty boy, who always woke up at the crack of dawn, seems happiest these days when he does not have to move at all. Not one inch. He seems to have about three 'modes' these days: lying in bed, lying on the sofa, preferably under a blanket while reading/sending whatsapps, or - and this is by far the predominant mode - sitting in front of his playstation.
Asked to rank the importance of things in his live (school, friends, family, sport, homework, playstation) from 1 to 10; the boy would probably merit the playstation with a 12+. The mystical machine - to me that is - seems to absorb all his time and energy. On the afternoons when I am home before he arrives back from school, I notice he does not hang around anymore for a cup of tea or - God forbid - a chat. Instead he can not wait to sprint upstairs to the boy cave where his playstation lives. Within seconds he is deeply engrossed in killing/robbing people, stealing cars, or other virtual criminal offences. Headphones firmly on his head he talks to his mates, who are all on their own play stations, real time and non stop.
MonologueNow picture me downstairs in the kitchen reading a newspaper, working on a shopping list, checking my work mail and glancing at the clock every ten minutes or so. I feel an hour, or may be an hour and a half is more than enough time to get rid of some surplus testosterone playing Advanced Warfare or Black Ops 3. The 14yo of course completely looses track of time. Every single day. Depending on my hormonal balance (or unbalance) I am either trying really hard to ignore the clock a bit longer, or getting ready for a fight.
Either way there comes a point when I am climbing the stairs to talk to my son. This by the way is easier said than done. It proofs to be very difficult to make eye contact, because the boy is totally fixated on the screen. So instead of talking with him at talk at him. Some rather long winding monologue about keeping check of time, homework, reading a book (I know) helping out around the house, only to hear him say:'It's my mum'.
Incubation periodI always, always forget that his friends are listing in. How infuriating! If I get really angry at this point he just rolls his eyes at me, which isn't very productive. Believe me, I tried. If I go downstairs to sulk, he does not get the message that he should NOT be playing on the playstation for hours and hours. So the best thing by far is to state - without once raising my voice - how disappointed I am. A few tears (again depending on the hormones) every now and then work wonders as well.
Not straight away, mind you. The 14yo usually needs a 24-hour incubation period. However within a day (or two) my son will spontaneously offer to help empty the dishwasher or peg out the washing. He might even come back with a surprising 'yes' when asked to accompany me to the supermarket. Wow!
But still, I feel something has to change. In me. I am the mum of a 14yo spotty, greasy haired boy and it is about time I start acting like one. Just telling him what to do (or if truth be told, what not to do) is no longer effective, if it ever was. I have to try taking an interest in his interests and if that means listening to stories about him and his mates on the playstation/smartphone/tablet so be it.
SnowdropTo stick to this resolution I decide to let him show me the snapchat app on his phone; something I would not normally shy away from. I even go as far as installing it on my phone as well. And you know what, it is really good fun. You can take silly pictures and send them to a friend, who can look at it for a whole 5 seconds before it self destructs. It is such good fun that I find myself crouching down in the front garden to take a close-up of a snowdrop and then finger write brrr over the top. So imagine my joy when I check my phone during a coffee break at to find the boy has added me to his snapchat friend list.
He has even sent me a snapchat of an overlarge smiley on which has written just the one word: happy! It was at that precise moment I realised that yes, I sadly had to let go of my little boy, but that living with a teenager definitely has its moments as well. I just need to recognise and grab them!