Thursday, 28 February 2008

Growing pains

I have always known this day was coming. I just didn't think it would happen so soon.

I'm talking about the day when my relatively compliant, mostly happy child turned into a snarling, grunting, hormonal almost teenager. It's like someone flicked a switch inside his head the day he started high school and changed his whole view of the world. Apparently the "whole world" (read that as his parents) is "out to get him" (read that as stop him having fun) for absolutely no good reason. And don't even get me started on the homework issue!

It's times like this that I resort to my "little book of sanity". This is a collection of poems, thoughts, essays and letters that I have come across over the years and kept, just in case. I was reading through this book this morning and found this: (with thanks to Adair Lara)

"I just realised that while children are dogs - loyal and affectionate - teenagers are cats.

It's so easy to be a dog owner. You feed it, train it, boss it around. It puts its head on your knee and gazes at you as if you were a Rembrandt painting. It bounds indoors with enthusiasm when you call it.

Then, around age 13 (sometimes earlier), your adoring puppy turns into a big old cat. When you tell it to come inside, it looks amazed, as if wondering who died and made you emperor. Instead of dogging your footsteps, it disappears. You won't see it again until it gets hungry - then it pauses on its sprint through the kitchen to turn its nose up at whatever you're serving. When you reach out to ruffle its head, in that old affectionate gesture, it twists away from you, then gives you a blank stare, as if trying to remember where it has seen you before.

You, not realising that the dog is now a cat, think something must be desperately wrong with it. It seems so antisocial, so distant, sort of depressed. It won't go on family outings. Since you're the one who raised it, taught it to fetch, stay and sit on command, you assume you did something wrong. Flooded with guilt and fear, you redouble your efforts to make your pet behave.

Only now you're dealing with a cat, so everything that worked before now produces the opposite of the desired result. Call it, and it runs away. Tell it to sit and it jumps on the counter. The more you go towards it, wringing your hands, the more it moves away.

Instead of continuing to act like a dog owner, you can learn how to behave like a cat owner. Put a dish of food near the door, and let it come to you. But remember that a cat needs your help and your affection too. Sit still and it will come, seeking that warm, comforting lap it has not entirely forgotten. Be there to open the door for it.

One day, your grown-up child will walk into the kitchen, give you a big hug and say, "You've been on your feet all day. Let me get those dishes for you." Then you'll realise that, at last, your cat is a dog again."

That pretty much sums up what I'm starting to go through. The operative word is "through" because I'm sure I'll come out the other side.

Alex, however, may not make it to next week!

Breathe in, breathe out, count to 100... repeat as often as is necessary.

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