I am a survivor.
It didn’t actually kill me.
It was touch and go there for a while, but I persevered and came out alive!
No, I’m not talking about climbing Everest, finishing an Ironman, or earning a Ph.D. I’m talking about living with a 17-year-old male. Simply living. Not thriving because heck, he should just be grateful HE is still alive at this point.
My second son turned 18 a few months ago and all I can think is, “Sayonara age 17! You can’t be gone fast enough!”
It seems every parent of a teenager has that ONE year that tests their patience, spirit, will, and sanity more than other years. With my first it was age 15, but with my second it was 17. You’d think by age 17 you’d see maybe just a little more frontal lobe development in their brains, and the immature nonsensical behavior and attitude would be by the wayside, but that’s not always the case. Just like you can have an adolescent who is a late bloomer physically, so can you have one that mentally and emotionally takes their time maturing. Lots and lots of TIME.
And also, HE IS 17. It’s because he is a 17-year-old boy!
Throughout the tumultuous and exhausting year 17, I had to keep reminding myself of that simple and glaring fact, and repeatedly self-talking in my head, “It’s because he is 17.”
Why doesn’t he notice things? Little things like when his little brother has had enough of his teasing, or big things like when his mom is sending out signals that she is gravely upset and needs to be taken seriously. Why doesn’t he notice? It’s because he’s 17.
Why can he not remember something I’ve told him 85 times, but can remember every lyric to 50 rap songs, and the score of a basketball game from 6 months ago? It’s because he’s 17.
He doesn’t realize how fast he drives sometimes. He thinks everyone else on the road is a smart and safe driver and will never cause him to be in an accident, and loud music on in the car isn’t distracting him. He thinks like this because he’s 17.
In his mind, his only future is tomorrow. It’s not next week, next month, next semester, or next school year. There is no long-term thinking about “his future” at this point, and that’s because he is 17.
He shouldn’t be dating your daughter, or dating at all really. He doesn’t have a high enough relationship I.Q. to even remember (and appreciate and desire) to hug his own mother, so he is not capable of giving your daughter the attention she craves and deserves. It’s not because he’s not a “good guy,” it’s because he’s thinking about his next pizza, not emotionally supporting another human. Why? Becausee he is 17.
Alarm clocks are ignored. Cars are returned with empty gas tanks. Bedrooms are filled with empty cups, plates, and soda cans. Bathrooms are unrecognizable, and clean laundry means it passed the sniff test. It’s all behavior that screams, “He is 17!”
And then something magical happens. It’s that same age progression magic that years before turned your tantrum-filled two-year old into an agreeable and bright three-year old who you actually enjoyed being around. That 17-year-old the one tethering on insanity and bringing you to your knees every night – wakes up one day and is 18. The 17-year-old excuse no longer holds water, and it doesn’t need to, because 18 brings with it not just a voter ID card and the chance to buy lottery tickets, but a very poised adult whom you can’t welcome back into your life fast enough.
He is 18! He hugs, smiles, and helps make dinner. He takes care of younger siblings without complaint and payment. He passes college entrance exams with flying colors, and talks about a future that includes career choices, not just pizza toppings. He saves money, cleans his room regularly and without prompting, and talks about moving out and going to college with excitement, not nervousness.
And he eagerly hugs you, without pulling away first or acting like he’s too “old” for that. He does all those things because he’s 18. Because he is 18! He is knocking on adulthood’s door polished, and with the confidence and conviction that only time and experience can bring. He is all these things because he is 18.
Now just think what 19 will look like.
Melissa Fenton is a freelance writer and adjunct librarian at Pasco-Hernando State College. Find her writing all over the internet, but her work mostly on the dinner table. She is on Facebook at 4BoysMother and on twitter at @melissarunsaway.