The mind of youth is always perplexing. And yet, were we not once so young and green? How is it that we forget? Can you recall when you were ten, eleven, or twelve, and how you maneuvered amongst the ‘Big People’, the grownups in your life?
As adults now, we expect so much from our children. Not quite tots, not quite adolescents; the realm of the ‘in between’, or tweens, and all that it encompasses.
Try to reach back and recall such moments; a time, a place, the people. What comes to mind? What coursed through your young noggin then? Was it worry? Was it sadness? Fear? Shyness? A combination of all four, and maybe more?
A tough age, to be sure. Especially if one has older siblings. And especially if the age differences are significant.
I was lucky, in a way. I had three older brothers, separated by two years and one year. Twins. And I had three younger siblings, one two years difference but the other two, a tremendous chasm. Perhaps that is why I rarely hear from the very youngest. He cannot possibly relate to his older, more ancient ‘bros’, and so he chooses to live his own life, far removed. Much like the ‘tweens’ mentioned earlier, I cannot fathom what goes through the mind of my 40 year old brother. Thirteen years is another life time. (But surprisingly, I am quite close to one of my younger sisters, an 11 year ravine.)
So the four of us brothers, close in age proximity, hung out. We did everything together. And as for my own ‘thinking’, as an 11 year old? It’s tough to recall.
But I look at my own 11 year old, and perhaps I was like him. I must admit that at times I am rather flummoxed by his sense of logic and chain of thought. I find myself repeating the same word,“What?”, to the point where he simply gives up and says, “Never mind.” Maybe I was like that, too. I’ll have to ask my Mum.
It is not that we are not listening to our child. My wife and I try valiantly to understand every word that escapes his thin, beautiful, tomato-ripe lips. His words are either at a decibel only heard by canines, or they come out as a stream of mumbles.
“What? You want a stray poodle for summer?”
“CAN YOU MAKE NOODLES FOR SUPPER!” would be the correct answer, bellowed from the back seat of the car, replete with the ubiquitous eye roll witnessed in the rear view mirror.
Or just the other day I was driving him to GameStop, one of his favorite haunts. We were going down a muddy, rut-filled road and it was a quiet ride. Just to get a response from him I asked, “Do you like mud?”
He looked over at me and replied, “No.” And a minute later he added, “What kind of question is that?”
I like to break up a silent ride with some wacky questions or comments, just to see his reaction.
When at home, assorted screeches and howls and laughter emanate from the thin walls of his bedroom. Earlier on, we used to check up on him, to make sure he was safe. He’d look at us and say, “What?” and we’d reply, “Oh, just checking to make sure you’re ok, that’s all.” “I’m fine. Can you shut the door, please?”
And now, with the latest technological devices, we can’t tell if he’s playing video games, or he’s on a group call (or whatever they call it in kid lingo), or just simply playing with his legos. Who the hell knows?
When our 19 year old is home for college for a few days, he just doesn’t understand his sibling’s grunts and groans and giggles. He’d be sitting with us, watching TV, and we’d hear a shriek from the other room. “What was that?!”he’d say with alarm. But we’d quell his concerns by saying, offhandedly, “Oh, it’s just your brother, having fun.”
Our nineteen year old doesn’t possess a high threshold for such pre-adolescent outbursts. And we have to remind him that he was just like that, that he was once eleven.
We are, after all, talking about an eleven year old brain. How much can that brain have possibly grasped at such a tender age? How much can he possibly know?
We all have to cut him some slack. It can be incredibly irritating, and challenging, and monstrously vexing, but a deep, deep breath usually helps diffuse the sudden rise in blood pressure. He’s eleven. He’s playing. He does what 11 year olds do.
Even though we may have lost the ability to conjure such youthful memories, we cannot banish such tender moments from his childhood. There are too many tragedies in the world, too much misery, too much strife to have us add to that collective sorrow.
So when our youngster, our bright, beautiful, blue-eyed, lovely boy, engages in such seemingly incomprehensible actions, we just have to step back and allow him to be that child, to keep him safe, and warm, and have him know that we love him dearly. Even though at times he does seem to speak in tongues.
Despite his varied antics and mood swings, I think we’ll keep him around. For a very long time.