I have a friend who started calling her son her Hairy Man Child when he was in his late teens. It makes total sense to me. Legally, he was an adult. He could survive on his own and take care of himself if he’d needed to, but he also was her kid. And they had (and still have) a close relationship. So of course she still took care of him-- maybe not in the same way she did when he was a toddler, but she still supported him in a lot of ways. She wanted him to live a good and happy life, so she did what she could for him. It’s what moms do.
Lately, I feel like I have my own budding Hairy Man Child.
We’re at this weird place developmentally where his behaviors don’t necessarily match his body. At 14, Nolan is definitely in the midst of puberty. He’s eating like a small hippopotamus… He’s got hair sprouting from all sorts of fun new places… His skin is changing… And his moods swing harder than a Major League Baseball player. And yet many of his behaviors are typical of much younger kids.
Bathrooming, for instance, is just downright bizarre. And no, I’m not going to talk about poop (this time).
At this point in Nolan’s life, toilet training is more of a marathon than a sprint. For the most part he’s doing well right now. But he still has his moments where his body doesn’t give him enough warning. When this happens in the car, it often goes like this…
Me- Tell me on your iPad, Buddy.
Nolan- (angrier whining)
Me- Nolan, where is your iPad?
Nolan- (finds his iPad and starts tapping furiously in his communication app)
iPad- Bathroom. Bathroom. Bathroom. BathroomBathroomBathroomBATHROOMBATHROOMBATHROOMBATHROOMBATHROOMBATHROOM!!!!!!
Me- Okay! Just let me find somewhere we can stop!
Sometimes we make it. Usually we don’t. This is why I keep puppy pads in the car.
Heck, sometimes it even happens at home-- just without as much warning. But at least at home I have cleaning supplies and he doesn’t have to sit on puppy pads to keep off of the wet seat. (Quick life hack for anyone who finds themselves in this position-- put one with the absorbent side facing the seat to absorb what it can while you get your butts home and the other facing up in case it happens again... You’ll have less to deal with when you finally get home.)
But it’s a really awkward state to be in… I stand in the bathroom door supervising (more like reminding him to pee INTO the toilet rather than AROUND the toilet…) and trying not to freak out over the pubes he’s sprouting. I really want to be able to give him his space and privacy, and yet he needs too much support for that to be our reality. Hopefully it doesn’t feel outside of the norm for him as much as it does for me.
He has taken to leading me into a different room, pushing me gently to indicate that he wants me to back up and then shutting me in that room. So clearly, he’s a kid who values his space. And I’m sure he’d love more privacy than we generally give him.
But it’s hard to trust a kid who makes as much laundry as he does.
Kirk says often that we “can’t leave him alone for five minutes.” And sometimes that’s true. Other times, he just wants to watch a video in peace without his boring, nagging parents cramping his style. I mean, what’s more normal for a 14-year-old boy than that?
But at the same time, if we don’t nag we end up doing extra loads of laundry, trying to fix broken things or just dealing with messes of varying degrees all day long.
I’m sure all parents find themselves with these gaps from time to time… their kids are able to do the things they need to to take care of themselves, but that doesn’t mean that they will if we don’t require it. Our gaps are similar, but they’re definitely wider. Sometimes he CAN but isn’t mindful of it without our reminders… Other times, he needs our support to be able to do things.
I know he’d like to be able to do them on his own, but he’s not there yet. I’ve said for a long time that Nolan is running on the same track as all of the other kids his age-- he’s just got more hurdles in his lane than the other kids. And some of those hurdles are bigger than a normal hurdle or have a water hazard to navigate after he clears them… They’re really not even running in the same event.
And I guess I need to remind myself that even though I want him to have the same experience, space and privacy most kids are allowed at his age, that’s not the event he’s running in. He’s likely to need some extra cheering, support and even equipment along the way. So instead of cheering from the stands, Kirk and I also have to fill the roll of coach along the way.
So, sorry kiddo-- Mom’s going to be right there at the bathroom door coaching as needed. If I do my job right, you’ll need less input from me along the way.
But until then, please aim for the INSIDE of the toilet. Thanks.