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.