I know I’m speaking because I can hear my own voice, and in fact I know he can hear me because he’s nodding in agreement at all the right times.  Yet, somehow he hasn’t heard a word I’m saying for the moment I stop talking, he turns and heads back to bed, stepping over the discarded shirt, shorts, underwear, pajamas, sneakers and sock (the location of the other sock is still undetermined), picks up a book and begins reading again.  Without picking up the clothes. Even though I just spent the past five minutes asking him to do so.  And he seemed to imply he would.

Right about now I want to scream.  Or cry.  Something.   I watch as he crawls under his covers fully dressed; I can still see traces of my little boy– it’s the same roundish face, the same soft eyes, the same small scar above his right eyebrow; generally, he’s the same great kid: inquisitive, silly, polite.  And yet, so help me, there’s someone – something – else festering just beneath the surface: a disorganized, sometimes grumpy, occasionally irrational, hollow-legged sort of creature and I have to admit, I am slightly frightened.

I thought I was prepared for anything.   Colicky baby, terrible twos, snarky seven year old – I’ve seen it all.  They came, I saw, I conquered.  Nothing scared me.  But this is unchartered territory – and truthfully, I’m a bit unnerved by these hormonally induced changes.  I can help apply cream to the pimples dotting his chin or open the window to clear the less than aromatic scent emanating from his room – but how do I handle the monosyllabic grunts, the ‘you say black, I’ll say white’ defiance, the sudden Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde personality shifts; and why does right now really means twenty minutes, or how come he’s screaming that he can’t seem to find the book that’s sitting right on his desk, next to the computer he swears he’s only playing on for the allotted 1 hour a night when I know he’s sneaking an extra ten minutes here and another fifteen there.  And, really, how the heck can one child eat an entire four-course meal and then be ravenous less than a half hour later?

Sure, somehow in all this chaos, I know he’s exercising his independence, and he’s supposed to be pushing the boundaries so he can learn to navigate the craziness of the real world on his own. And sure, I know that as he exercises his independence, part of me wishes he’d still want me to hold his hand as we cross the street or need my help with his homework, or simply want to snuggle at the end of the day. I realize that he’s been with me at home longer than he will be and I guess I hoped we’d somehow escape the usual teenage tumult and enjoy the next 5 years free of contention and angst.   Obviously I’m not so lucky. Now I’ve just got to learn to pick my battles and pray I survive the war.

Now if only he’d get a job to help pay for the food bill.

By Jenny Tananbaum.  Jenny Tananbaum is a writer, wife and mom to three. suburbanmom@njkidsonline.com