I say this from the informed position of having been one, living with one and being one: the most flighty people in the world are teenage girls, teenage boys and peri-menopausal women. Hold the rotten eggs, tomatoes and heads of lettuce until I’m done, please.
I was, I admit, the sort of teenage girl who was not girly. I scoffed at flounces and frills; I was so conversant in baseball-ese it made my mother want to spit. My closet was populated by t-shirts, jeans, sneakers, and I was more likely to slide down a banister or bounce up and down stairs than to make a dignified transition from one floor to another. My father could count on me to man the push-mower…even the one that was purely about pushing, not about gas or finishing the job quickly. My lack of frills didn’t, however, stand in the way of a tendency to write very bad poetry whenever my poor little romantic (yes, romantic and melodramatic) heart had been crushed. I was a fan of being lovelorn. I’d issue sighs and drop face-first into bed while sobbing with the best of them. I know about teenage girls. I’m glad I don’t have one.
Once I was ready to reproduce, one of my most fervent prayers involved being blessed with sons because “boys are easier, Lord. They don’t do the same ridiculous things girls do.” I‘ll now insert my favorite quote from that classic 1997 film George of the Jungle: “Bad guy falls in poop. Classical element of physical comedy. Now comes the part where we throw our heads back and laugh. Ready? Ready.” And, of course, HA HA HA HA HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Except, I’m not a bad guy, but yeah…I pretty much put my foot in it that time, didn’t I?
I’ve survived one son’s adolescence (barely); I’m hip-deep in another son’s adolescence with sprinkles on top, if you want to call Autism “sprinkles.” This, of course, is making the peri-menopausal portion of my opening statement even testier than I expected. You may now throw the rotten eggs, tomatoes and heads of lettuce if you still feel inclined to do so. Boys, I’ve learned the hard way, are pretty much as melodramatic as girls, and -because they don’t like to share their feelings- they’re even more difficult to understand. I can take a girl shopping and somewhat (not entirely, mind you) appease her…boys are a different kettle of fish.
J spent all of yesterday in his inner sanctum. That is: he was happily ensconced in his room, listening to music and not wanting any human company. We went about our business as usual and tried, unsuccessfully, to get him to either come out to “play” or let us in his room to “hang out.” We were met with joyous rejection; a bright smile, a giggle-laced BYE, or simply waiting by the door so he could close it as soon as we put both feet in the hallway area. No more and no less: he thinks we’re dirt and we’re not fit for socializing.
Cut to late afternoon, and down the stairs stomped a surly-looking J with enough of a pout to compete with any elephant. His lips, symbolic of his profound discontent, stuck out far enough to precede him into the kitchen. Uh-oh! “What did you do?,” I asked my husband. “I didn’t do anything! What did YOU do?,” he said, his eyes wide. “I was upstairs and just came downstairs…I didn’t do anything?,” I replied. Back and forth we went several times before J started, with his hands, instructing us to clean things in the kitchen. Wash this, wash that, put that away…you people are so irritating! he seemed to be saying. He was in a mood…in an inexplicable mood. Awesome!
For days now, he’s been acting like we’re extraneous to his daily routine, except in those parts where he wants to insert us. Like pebbles waiting by the side of the road, we’ve been attempting to jump in his shoe to make ourselves noticed, felt, reacted to, even. All day, Mr. But I’m A Teenager has been giggling us out of his room and surroundings, and now…he’s PISSED??????
J’s turning more and more (did I say more?) into a regular teenager; this is at the same time exciting and befuddling. We spend a great deal of time trying to figure out “what next?” and “what now?” with him; now it’s compounded by the same quirks (idiosyncratic patterns?) as everyone else’s. Somehow I fail to see how this is fair, but -it seems- it is now “the norm.” Just like every other 17 year-old kid in America -no…the WORLD- J wants to make sure his “satellites” are circling but not intruding. We have forcibly relinquished our status as “the end all be all.” We weren’t even asked if we wanted to do this.
Mr. Surly-Now-Joyous-Later went back to his room. We’d been chastised. We’d been humbled. We’d been forgiven and humored. Tomorrow and the day after we’ll once more be mocked and endured. All this will happen while pimple cream is religiously applied to whatever blemish our adolescent Boy Wonder discovers on his nose ahead of Monday’s TV crew visit. He’ll kiss us one moment and upbraid us the next. He’ll like what I cook while I’m cooking it, reject it once it’s served. Oh, the misery!
For some strange reason we thought that the difficulties of parenting J were all simply Autism-related. HA! The developmental disability is a lot less daunting than the glimpses of what he would’ve been like without it are. We’re accustomed to the repetitive behavior, the scrum cap and the boxing gloves; we can deal with the need for routine and the almost mono-maniacal concern with certain things, but I don’t think (in all our years of worrying) we ever really considered that we’d be dealing with J’s Evil Twin: Adolescent J.
See what I mean about complacency? We are used to The Autistic Way. We are used to Quirky. We are used to boxing gloves, Slinky, Fake Elvis, red is the color (Go, Red!!!,) noonus/NO!, BYE, PECS, sign language…and here we are: being given the emotional middle finger!