Katie Bingham Smith

How My Son Went Through Puberty and Came Out A Different Person

Posted on November 29, 2017

Photo by Jordan Whitt

Photo by Jordan Whitt

I gave birth to a boy who had an old soul. I could tell as soon as I laid eyes on him he had been here before in a different time, as a different person.

He talked early and often, seemed wise beyond his years, and before he could speak, he made lots of sounds to get my attention despite me teaching him some sign language. I knew he was desperate to communicate. He wanted to please me and was often too excited to let me know what he was thinking through hand motions alone; he needed to be heard. After he was one he became an expert talker and my house was hardly silent unless he was asleep.

Sometimes though, he was quiet when he was awake. It was rare but these moments of calm were when I felt his love shoot through me; like when I would find him staring back at me after peeking over my shoulder while on a long car ride. I would hear nothing but the sound of silence for a moment and was sure he had fallen asleep, but instead, he was staring a me: "Hi baby," I would say. I couldn't help myself knowing I may regret breaking the quiet spell.

"Mama," he would whisper. It was wonderful but almost painful. Every parent out there knows what I am trying to put into words but really, it's indescribable.

He was curious and asked lots of questions. He didn't seem to have a filter as most kids don't. He loved being around people, and making jokes. He was so often the life of the party and people grew to count on him for entertainment.

And for a decade, even after his two younger siblings were born, all he wanted was me. He was a mamas boy and I'm not afraid to admit it. He would be if you asked his almost 14-year-old self about that, but I remember what it felt like and I know all too well the void that it has left.

Photo by Celine Preher

Photo by Celine Preher

Because something happens to a lot of kids when they hit puberty; they aren't the same. They change, and as a parent, you miss the way things used to be, a lot. In my son's case, he started going through changes very early. Before I knew it, my overzealous, larger-than-life son who loved me more than anything in this world had left the building and I now have a very stoic, young man.

He doesn't ask many questions these days. Shit, he barely answers them. I am lucky if I get a murmur in response when I ask him about his life.

We all know teenagers think they know best and their parents know absolutely nothing, but no one told me their personalities would change so much as they started morphing into men and women that I would shed tears about it. That I would lose sleep over it. That the hardest part about parenting would be to watch my children transform and change into different versions of themselves.

Seeing it from the outside while our children try and figure out who they are; who they will become is an entirely different experience than going through it ourselves.

I miss my son. He is with me almost every day of his life but he has a wall I can’t get through. He doesn't want me there and I don't want to push it. I want to know him but I don't want to piss him off even more than I already do by getting after him about manners, his chores, and doing his school work.

I know it is normal. I also know I am normal for being sad about it, for mourning the way my son used to be, and for missing the relationship we used to have.

I've heard they come back around though. Maybe it will be when he is 30 and has a child of his own. Perhaps he will come back to me after he lives by himself for a few weeks and finally realizes how much love I gave him by trying to get in his head while washing his clothes and making his favorite desserts.

And when he does, I will be here.

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