Lately this whole “dad” thing has been making me crazy. Now that Mtuseni is getting older and more self-assured and independent — which means I’m doing my job — there’s also a lot more push-pull between us. Not long ago my suggestions to him were enthusiastically accepted and completed like clockwork, but now many of them get pushback and debate. Or they’re ignored. Or “forgotten.”
Sometimes I wonder, “Who is this know-it-all person that resists me and tosses off thoughtless comments and doesn’t do his allowance tasks without umpteen reminders? What happened to the little, naive, polo shirt-clad high schooler I first met…and who was so easy to guide?”
Parenting a teen isn’t easy. Doing it across hemispheres increases the difficulty immensely. Plus, as a friend recently said, “You’ve got concentrated child rearing going on here: early 20s male, economic challenges, different country and culture and race. Really, it’s more than you may even realize.” It’s true… I likely didn’t know what I was getting myself into here. (It’s not the first time, and I’m pretty sure it won’t be the last.)
But I recently stumbled on an interesting Huffington Post piece on parenting teens: a short list of insights and reminders to help navigate the “emotional whirlwind and heat of the battle.” For me, the list was filled with “aha” and “yep” moments. But a simple one put a catch in my throat and put all of this in perspective:
“You will miss this. Really.”
Whenever I think about these few words, I get a little misty. Because if I do my job right… and I will not fail at this job… then soon enough Mtuseni won’t need me for assistance and guidance. He’ll be done with school and starting a career — climbing the ladder without looking down to see if I’m holding it steady or worrying if I’m there to catch him. Tackling more important responsibilities than the allowance tasks I assign him now. Not needing me or depending on me like he currently does…
Because despite his being Mr. Know-It-All, I still get “Bud, help me” notes from Mtuseni. And his bravado regularly flips over into insecurity and doubt that need a strong shoulder and pep talk. And I know that when he receives the box of new clothes and homemade cookies I sent last week, I’ll get a heartfelt, teary-eyed, tear-inducing, blessing-filled thank you from him. — And then he’ll do something two days later that makes me want to throttle him!
It’s just the crazy-making, crazy quilt experience of raising a teenage boy. And it’s all worthwhile.
And yeah, I’ll miss it when it’s over.