Teenager brains are always developing. Always changing. Sometimes evolving. Sometimes regressing.
Parent brains are doing the exact same thing.
And the cogs eventually stop lining up between parent and teenager. Slightly at first, then one day entirely. The inner-workings of the parent-child relationships get clogged and jammed. And the parents begin to loathe their teenagers and the teenagers begin to loathe their parents. And eventually it all erupts. Somebody snaps. And an adult is finally born out of all of it.
It was at this point in which Mom and I found ourselves that one fateful week, not long after I returned from the mission. We were at our eruption point. One of us was bound to go off.
In exchange for letting me live with them, and in exchange for all of my food, and utilities, and general financial support, Mom and Dad asked only one thing of me. Wash the dishes every night. The terms were easy enough to agree with at the time I made the deal.
But I started up at the local community college that same week. I wanted girls in my life. I wanted to spend time with my friends. I wanted to go shoot potatoes at Spencer. I wanted to write a novel. I definitely wanted to ejaculate as often as possible. Don’t get me wrong. I had good intentions to wash those dishes, and most of the time I kept my commitment, but I wasn’t perfect at it.
And one night, after a big messy meal, I didn’t do them.
I promised Mom it’d be done in the morning first thing. She very reluctantly agreed.
I didn’t do them the next morning, either.
And, she erupted.
I’m not saying she simply started yelling, or huffing, or puffing, or any of that mild stuff that I was so used to. I’m saying, she erupted.
The culmination of our years butting heads together all came to one glorious point, and I watched mesmerized as she literally jumped up and down, stamped her feet, waved her arms, and began screaming at the top of her lungs. She was having a full on tantrum.
I don’t remember what she was screaming, but I remember these three phrases at the end, each screamed as loud and as high as her windpipe could make them while she jumped up and down in front of me.
It was the first and only time since I was a child that I remember being sincerely scared of my mother. If she would have had a weapon that could inflict blunt force trauma in that moment, some uncontrolled part of her might have used it. Have no doubt.
When she finally finished, she just stood, looking at me with terrified and angry eyes.
I can never forget what they told me in that moment. They said, “I don’t know what the hell that was that just came out of me,” and “you better get out of my sight before it happens again.” It was like standing in front of a big purple Tyrannosaurus Rex who doesn’t understand why he suddenly isn’t singing “I Love You” and dancing with children, but instead is desperately desiring to rip those children limb to limb.
Not wanting to be dismembered, I obeyed her eyes, and I disappeared into my bedroom down in the basement.
Before I could even sit on my bed and attempt to process what had just happened, the intercom cracked throughout the entire house. “Dan, you need to find yourself a new place to live. Today.” It clicked and went silent.
I immediately packed two large duffel bags and within twenty minutes I was back at the top of the stairs. It was time to be on my own. I knew it. She knew it.
And in that moment, an adult was born.
She was standing in the upstairs hallway as I pushed my way past her, carrying my bags. She tried to apologize, I ignored her. She tried again. I ignored her again. She tried once more, I turned to her and with an ice-cold tone, told her that she didn’t need to worry. I would never live in her house again.
That was fourteen years ago. My brain has since more fully developed, and I’ve actually learned how to use it. I follow my gut more often than I don’t. My penis has finally taken a back seat to my heart. Most of the decisions I make nowadays are sound.
I also have a child of my own, which will do more to help any person understand his own parents and the way they raised him than any amount of therapy could ever offer.
And I watch him with her sometimes.
My son is eight right now. He loves his Nana.
I watch Nana. She loves her grandson.
I watch the two of them play, and laugh, and hug, and wrestle, and interact. There is only kindness and goodness there. I watch her when she needs to use her authority with him. There is only sweetness, albeit firm sweetness, there as well.
Meh. That’s just how grandparenting is. Believe me, I’ve thought the thought myself. But there is more to it than that, and this is where I have really learned a lesson when it comes to my mother.
You see, now that my brain is working a little better, I have an important ability. I have the ability to zoom out from any situation. It’s an ability that teenagers generally lack. And when I zoom out from what Mom and I had together, I am able to put a lot of things into perspective that I never could when I was younger…