I was talking to my son’s Sunday school teacher when she mentioned a new world phenomena; the emergence of a totally new group of persons, pre-teens. This is a new age-set whose members are neither child nor teenager and of whom my son is one. She told me in some churches, they even have services targeting this group of youngsters whose issues are not truly teenage nor child.
When my son was younger, my philosophy was that there are only two categories of people; children and adults. In my opinion then, teenage was merely a coined term from the West that was used to justify bad behaviour. My argument was that in the olden days, as soon as a young girl began her menses and a young man could clear a substantial amount of land and underwent whatever rite of passage deemed necessary, they were ready for marriage.
Teenage was an unknown phenomenon. No doubt, I argued, teenage was a problem created by the rise of formal education that kept maturing adults in class unable to move on to the next phase. Rising hormones and inability to express their growing awareness and independence created the problems and complexities associated with teenage. Of course by then my children were young and I was speaking philosophically without ever raising a half child half adult.
Now that my son is turning eleven, I realize that it is easier to philosophise than to face the very real changes that my young person seems to be undergoing. I am not sure that my old philosophy is not justifiable, but however the trend began, the reality is that Tj is not yet fully equipped to go out there and be someone’s husband and life being as it is, he may not do that for quite sometime and hence I am stuck with this emerging young man in a child’s body.
The sad part is that he is not even officially a teenager yet. I cannot begin to explain my consternation the first time I encountered this pre-teen monster. Forget the sagging pants, mo-hawks and dialect; what shocked me most was the ‘moods’ – from a boy no less. When I gave birth to male children one of the things I least expected was to be confronted by moods.
He seemed irritated by the most insignificant issue. Sometimes he would go out on a snit and sulk for what seemed to the rest of us no reason. I was at my wits end wondering where I went wrong and what I was to do with this person who was becoming too big to spank. Luckily for me one of my cousins, who is also one of my best friends, talked to me about this new pre-teen phenomenon.
Her son is also Tj’s age mate. Apparently the symptoms that were originally associated with the teenage years (13-18), are beginning earlier and earlier as children become more exposed. Mine was not a new trail. If the truth be told, my real problem with all the changes and pressures exerted by my son to exercise his independence is the reluctance to accept that my baby is growing up. Before I know it he will be soon leaving the nest to forge his way in life.
I can barely reconcile the once plump little baby with the gangly young boy in front of me now, or the strong, responsible man awaiting me in the future. I fear: have I prepared him enough? Can I trust what I have deposited to carry him through? Will he make it? And most importantly, when he falls on his face, will it hurt him so bad till he refuses to rise up again?
Yet, the truth is even if I go back in time; there is very little I could do differently. The reality is that the number of pages in his life that I needed to write in are coming to an end and he and God will be in charge of the pen to determine how the story continues and ends. No doubt along the way he will make his own blunders and no doubt I will shudder, but that is growth and as my son grows up, so must I.