Mike Cope's blog

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

For other middle school parents: DUDE, WHERE'S MY SON? By Jackie Papandrew www.JackiePapandrew.com My son recently turned 13, and the last traces of that sweet little boy who thought I hung the moon seem to have vanished. In his place is a strange, slouching creature with a pencil-thin mustache and adolescent angst oozing from every pore. This extraterrestrial I once called flesh and blood, whose mood swings dwarf the Grand Canyon, seems intent on bungee jumping from that rickety bridge connecting a child with adulthood. And I think he plans on dragging his rapidly aging mother along for the ride. A drastic language change was the first indication of alien infestation in my once cherished offspring. The rosy-cheeked cherub who used to run to me, eyes shining with adoration and shouting "Mommy!" began to address me (and everyone else) as "Dude." At 13 months, he was a sponge, joyfully soaking up new words, becoming more communicative every day. At 13 years, the hormones surging through his body have cut a swath through the speech center in his brain; his mouth, when it speaks at all, produces mere shrunken shreds of complete sentences apparently understood only by other members of his species. "S'up" is a perfectly acceptable, all-purpose phrase in an adolescent's world. "Mom, I love you," on the other hand, would burn his monosyllabic lips like acid and permanently corrupt his coolness. Communication with this high-tech yet illiterate generation is fraught with frustration. My son, who can't seem to utter two intelligible sentences to me, airs his gripes through text messaging. Just the other day, a message flashed on my cell phone in fractured syntax designed to torture my English major soul. "i no u h8 me. i try so hard 2 b good. y r u mad @ me?" Cave men scribbling on walls were more eloquent. Then there's the alteration in appearance. While I'm desperately trying to avoid bags and sags, this long-haired Neanderthal living in my house embraces them as fashion. Wearing gravity-defying pants slung low across his scrawny backside, he looks just like a baby with an overly full diaper. When I helpfully pointed this out, I got another overwrought, electronic missive that ended with several lines of the text message equivalent of a scream. This modern means of communication does keep the house quiet. Adolescent males seem to lose all capacity for living like civilized human beings. This means that my boy constantly raids the refrigerator but can't manage to close a door, that he can take 30-minute showers but never hang up a wet towel, that he stuffs freshly laundered clothes back into his hamper rather than putting them away. I find sticky cereal bowls in his closet because he was too lazy to return them to the kitchen, and the lunchbox he claimed he lost growing whole colonies of bacteria under his bed. I now understand why some animals eat their young. The child who begged me to read to him daily now rolls his eyes in disgust when I suggest we turn off the video games and pick up a book. The angel who proudly showed me off to his kindergarten classmates now pretends not to know the deranged woman waving to him in the middle school hallway. My fall from grace, seemingly overnight, has left me depressed, bewildered and prone to emotional excess. "You could cut the apron strings without slicing through my heart, you know," I whimper in one of my calmer moments. "Mom," he mumbles in that teenage tone of voice, "why can't you just act normal?" Normal is, of course, a relative term. In about 10 years, I will magically return to normalcy as my pubescent boy turns into an adult. At least I hope I do. In the meantime, I'm going to hang on to those severed apron strings. I may need them to strangle him. Copyright 2005 Jackie Papandrew; http://www.JackiePapandrew.com. Permission is granted to send this to others, with attribution, but not for commercial purposes.


  • Our son turned 13 on Sunday--how ironic that it was on MOTHER'S DAY! I had to chuckle as I read your post today. It was also comforting to hear that my 13 year old son is "normal" for 13 AND that we are not alone in these attitude and language changes. Thanks for the smiles this morning.


    By Blogger Carole, at 5/10/2005 06:56:00 AM  

  • It doesn't get any better for a while. My 15 year old told me the other day that I was "so annoying." He did have a slight smile when he said it. Kind of like, "You annoy me, but I sort of like it." My 22 year old daughter is recovering from the syndrome and is now starting to love Dad again. There's still hope! JW

    By Blogger drjimwhite, at 5/10/2005 07:08:00 AM  

  • This made me think of the other night, when our kindergartener got in big, BIG trouble and had to go to her room. Chad went to check on her after a while, and he found two notes and a jar sitting outside her door. The first note said: "do not dstrb!" The second note said: "i you have ne theng to tell me wit a noat and put it in here." So we wrote notes back and forth through the door until there were smiles again. We know when she's 13 and slamming doors and hating us, we'll long for the days when all it took was a note in a jar to make everything OK again.

    By Blogger Deana Nall, at 5/10/2005 08:06:00 AM  

  • I am still clinging to hope that my 21 year old son will become human and love his mama once again.

    I would love to exchange notes through the door Deana, and thanks for sharing. It made me laugh and brought me joy!

    By Blogger Hoots Musings, at 5/10/2005 08:14:00 AM  

  • Mike,

    A great read. Thanks.

    MY son turned 13 last Wednesday. Maybe it's because all of his development seems to be slow, but he's yet to become the creature in the article. Wait another three months, you say? Alright. But until then I'll continue to savor the thought that it hasn't been that long since he really believed that I'd play 2nd base for the Cardinals, if only I would show up for spring training. Where's that glove?

    By Blogger Frank Bellizzi, at 5/10/2005 08:15:00 AM  

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    By Blogger Rhonda, at 5/10/2005 08:20:00 AM  

  • My 15 year old son bought me a card for Mother's Day that had a huge "Bob the Builder" man on the front. Inside he wrote, "I love you very much." When I hugged him, and chuckled at the "toddler-ness" of the card, his whiskers poked my face. Weird, huh? Bob the Builder, silliness, whiskers, deep voice. It really is a balancing act for these sweet boys between childhood and manhood. I just pray I can gently usher him across that bridge...and that he never really leaves his heart of a child too far behind.

    By Blogger Sandra, at 5/10/2005 08:41:00 AM  

  • Mike,

    After 12+ years of youth ministry, I can confidently say this:

    Riding the roller coaster that is adolescent development with the teenager that is Chris Cope will be a blast! Yes, there will be some twist and turns and you'll be thrown for a loop from time to time but you will love it.

    While I'm sure you know this (in theory and in practice w/ Matt) remember these three words the next 5 - 7 years and you will have a smoother ride:


    I learned it in college (theory) and saw it fleshed out in John (now 19 and returning to normal) and see it every day in Laura. 99.9% of teens truly think that they are on stage and that the world is watching. That is why they freak out when they get a pimple because "everyone" will see. That is why they follow trends. That is why they embrace fads. That is why there are less hugs in public from mom and dad.

    What I've found the greatest weapon against such insular and myopic thinking is to try and create an environment and subculture of cool where themes like service, respect, and passion are highlighted, honored, and rewarded. That was our approach in youth ministry and we try to do the same in our family.

    Our kids are on stage right now. We as parents have the blessing to spotlight the attitudes (which are more important than behaviors) we like and applaud like crazy. We also have the responsibility to redirect, ignore, and yes, correct, attitudes which don't bring glory to Jesus.

    What a ride!

    By Blogger Joel Quile, at 5/10/2005 09:13:00 AM  

  • Mike, great story...I think I'll use that at my youth group parents meeting this Sunday. I sent an e-mail to your old aol account last week, but I don't know if the address is still good. Would you surf over to my blog profile and let me know where I could send an e-mail to you?

    Joel, why couldn't you bring that theory up in our youth ministry class last May? That's great stuff! BTW, my parents really enjoyed your class on Sunday at Highland, and enjoyed meeting you and Kim.

    By Blogger B-Rock, at 5/10/2005 11:22:00 AM  

  • Hi Mike,

    I enjoy reading your blog thanks to Travis and Matt suggesting readings from their blogs, but have never commented until now! This one struck a heart cord big time! I have one middle school daughter and one high school daughter! Despite the fact that they are night and day, my husband enjoys telling everyone they are just like me! For Mother's Day, our middle school kid showers me with a homemade scrapbook of poems and pictures...interesting comments under the pictures, but from the heart nonetheless! Our high school daughter sometime during the day did an, "OH YEAH, HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY!" While the middle school child may be a bit behind, the high school child is so much into the "IT'S ALL ABOUT ME" syndrome that she may never come out of it, and I may not notice if the other one enters it! Thanks for a great post on kids!


    By Blogger Tammy, at 5/10/2005 12:49:00 PM  

  • Oh, no! I'm so sorry for that author!!

    My boys still love me with (rough) hugs and "I love you, Mama."

    They are 13.

    We had a talk about the attitude creeping in, perfect timing with the reading from Luke about the evil spirit being cast out, but no Holy Spirit to take its place, so the evil one moved back in and brought his friends!!

    I guess it's easier to keep their heart when they are with me most of the time.

    You might consider it...

    By Blogger Alice, at 5/19/2005 01:14:00 PM  

  • Alice, I agree, my first reaction to the article was surprise, and then pity. Our kids are 22, 20, 18, 16, 14, 9, and 6. The door slamming and "I hate you!" silliness stopped by four years old at the latest. None of my teens have ever acted like the sort of teen this article describes. Our kids don't yell at us (or each other), nor do they tell us they hate us or stalk off sulking. They are affectionate in public. They are not perfect, but they don't act anything like 'typical' teens, either.
    I'm not a perfect mother- far, far from it. But their father and I never accepted the default position of low expectations our culture has for the teen/parent relationship, either. It does not have to be that way, and I think it's sad that so many Christian parents have settled for less.

    We're a closeknit family, and we have always homeschooled, so I guess we accidentally created that "...environment and subculture of cool where themes like service, respect, and passion are highlighted, honored, and rewarded," because ours don't embrace fads, follow trends, or get embarrassed by public marks of affection between parent and child.

    By Blogger Headmistress, zookeeper, at 5/20/2005 11:11:00 PM  

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