Tuesday, March 9, 2010

like father like son

My older son is 12. He is so much like me that we often butt heads spectacularly. We both love to learn, both become so fully engaged in a discussion that we develop tunnel vision, we both live to argue in order to hone our thinking about a topic, we both have to have the last word, and neither of us can stand to wait while someone finishes a sentence. It is the "unstoppable force meets immovable object" if we are both in high gear. My husband tries to re-direct or intercede or at least send us to separate corners when he can. Sometimes he just rolls his eyes and waits it out.

Twelve is an interesting age, as I suppose they all are. He is at times so much a teenager with attitude, at times so much more mature in making connections and putting big concepts together, and sometimes still a little boy. I know that gaining autonomy and independence in his thinking and being are normal and necessary parts of growing up. In most cases they are welcome, he moves through his world, takes care of himself, and sees to his responsibilities with a lot less physical help or oversight than used to be necessary.

The thing I didn't expect was that recently he has begun to flip the tables. He has started trying to take care of me. He asks how my work is going, he checks to make sure I have eaten breakfast and packed a good lunch, he reminds me to get rest and take time for myself, and tells me that he will take care of jobs around the house so I can focus on tasks I need to do. I wondered for awhile where this was coming from. We are not a frontier family or a military family where the father goes off and leaves the oldest son to "be the man of the house." I am not in any way in crisis or under huge stress, in fact the big, big project I was focused on ended last fall, things are much easier now.

I think it comes down to how he sees his father treating me. The way we relate to each other has changed in subtle ways, and this son is incredible at picking up on subtle. I know sons imitate and emulate their fathers, maybe the change in our dynamic came at just the point in my son's growth that it struck him as me needing more care, or he feels he wants to shift his relationship with me. I don't know, I also go back and forth as to how I feel about it. I have trouble with feeling like anyone needs to take care of me - my job is caretaker - so it often annoys me to have my child try to assume that role. I still have to be patient and bite my tongue in order to work with the dynamic with my husband this way, it is much harder for me to accept coming from my son. And I wonder if or how it might undermine my authority, if it means that he sees himself as in charge of me or if it hasn't had that implication for him. On the other hand, it is also sweet and in the end a quality we should encourage in him. All in all, it's not one of the issues I imagined having as we approached teenagehood.


  1. Greengirl,
    I enjoyed your post. We are having similar issues with my middle son, who is 13yrs as far as the butting heads, but it's with my hubby. (more info on findingsara's latest post, in comments). My oldest is 16yrs and he has been "caring for me" in many ways for about a year. I always put my mind towards his future wife, and I feel that he is getting practice for a role that I hope he will one day have, that of a caring husband. I think it's very important to help them practice for the future, don't you? Of course, we do have to set boundaries and we can care for them too.
    How lucky you are that he is so mature at 12!

  2. Everything changes when the household is balanced.

    I'm glad some of it has worn off on your son, he'll grow up to be a better man because of it.


  3. If I got this right, he's your *oldest* son. Oldest sons do this. When my oldest son was very young he would always hand me something when I peeled the onions because he knew I would cry, for example.

    My middle son is the reflective one and rather quiet but he can sense my mood the moment he walks in the room and has his own style of taking care of his Mum with a few well chosen words.

    My youngest son is the same age as your son and sometimes he asks to be tucked in and sometimes he offers to tuck me in. I would never argue with him because he will defend his position forever. He went off to 'Medieval Day' just now soooo full of enthusiasm, he makes my heart sing. He's a music lover and we listened to Maurice Chavalier sing 'Walking my baby back home' in the car on the way to school just now. I *adore* his individuality.

    Just enjoy your son and the way he goes about expressing himself. He'll want to be with his mates soon and it will all be over red rover.

  4. Elysia,
    Thank you. I can't really even imagine ages past this one. I agree it is good practice, this caring thing - I just hope we can keep a balance between respect (from him, for me) and this new role he seems to feel.

    In so many ways things are more balanced, and that must be good for everyone.

    Yes - he is the older one, the other one is 10. The 10 year old doesn't look to care for me, but, like your middle child perhaps, he senses my mood and is able to hug away most any gray. It does constantly amaze me how very individual they are. And yes - it has already flown too fast.

  5. I think this is a perfect example of "children learn what they see". He's becoming a man and learning through example how to properly treat a woman. I think it's absolutely wonderful.

    I was a nanny for a preteen years back and he was much the same way. When they have good examples for how men should treat women, I think it's natural for them to start "caring" for their mothers at a certain point.

    Congrats on raising such a wonderful young man! :-D



  6. Spirited,
    I know it is good for him, and the right thing - but the reversal of roles requires a little extra patience from me.

  7. Hmmm, perhaps it can be viewed as being courteous and assuming more responsibility for your comfort instead of being unaware of your well-being.

    If he were in some way directing you or giving orders that he expected you to acquiese to, that would be one thing. But, if he is becoming more observant and caring, that bodes well for his future.

    It must be wonderful to observe the transition to manhood upclose.

  8. CD,
    It is nice to see you around a bit again. It is indeed fascinating to see them grow, so much of what you expect and the occasional pleasant surprise like this.