Saturday, October 30, 2010

R-E-S-P-E-C-T, Find out What it Means to Me

This morning, my formerly agreeable, almost 12 year old son mouthed off to me.  I suddenly realized that this was not the first time this had happened.  Recently I've noticed that Joey has decided to question authority.  This is a problem because, in the autism world, it is a terrifying moment since you have no idea how autism is going to mix with puberty.  I was told by his fifth grade resource teacher last year (who had worked at the local residential facility for autistic children for an impressive amount of time) that he had seen them sail through it with no problem or completely lose their minds.  We have no idea on what end of the spectrum Joey's going to fall.

I had to make some returns to Old Navy (I know, I know, I said everything fit.  It didn't.)  Justin and Jamie had gone to scope out hotels for our 2011 Gettysburg Honda S2000 club drive next July and Ben was sleeping in anticipation of working this evening.  So I yelled up to Joey that we had to go to the store and to get his shoes on.  He proceeded to actually argue with me (me!) about why he needed to go.  I found myself trying to rationalize something that should have been a no brainer.  Because Mom said so should have been good enough.

We went into town, kid pouting all the way, while I tried to reason with him as to why I needed to take him with me.  He wasn't old enough to stay home by himself.  What if he needed something?  What if the dog decided to use him for a chew toy?  What if there was an emergency? 

In Virginia, you can't legally leave kids alone for any substantial length of time until they reach the age of thirteen, which is the argument I eventually settled upon after he told me he needed to get used to spending time by himself.  The problem with that statement is that Joey spends almost every waking moment he is not in school by himself and I thought it might be nice for him to go with me and spend some quality time with Mom.  Not to mention, I didn't think Ben needed to be woken when I only needed to run a quick errand.

So it occurred to me that maybe Joey doesn't totally understand the concept of respect yet.  I asked him on the way home (after a very short and successful returning expedition) if he knew what it meant.  He said no and I found myself stumped trying to define what exactly the word means.  It's kind of like pornography.  You may not be able to come up with a definition, but you know it when you see it.  I suggested that we look it up in the dictionary when we got home.  He said, "Mom, we've already run three errands this week!"  Um.  Maybe we need to look up the definition of errand?  Looking up a word in the dictionary does not, in  my book, qualify as an errand.

I came home and pulled out the dictionary.  Webster's defines respect as "to consider worthy of high regard.  Esteem."  I read it to him and he gave me that blank stare I usually get when I suggest it might be time to go to bed or that he try something in the green food group.  So I tried to explain it further.  I told him that you are supposed to respect your parents, or to honor them, because they provide for you, they love you, they treat you nicely (hopefully), and they're older than you, so they might know more.  He allowed that this might be true.  Which led to a discussion of....

Puberty.  Yep.  For some unknown reason, even though we have three boys, all of the information about adulthood seems to come from me.  Justin would probably get to it, but I'm not a patient woman.  Just ask my husband if I'm patient and he'll probably roll his eyes and burst out laughing.  This kid has not only been mouthing off to me, but I all of a sudden realized that he's been talking back to the teachers at school.  I haven't heard it a lot yet, but I've heard it and it was recently.  Not to mention, he's got hair on his upper lip.  I noticed it when he was getting his hair cut on Thursday.  I think we've arrived at adolescence.  It's time to give some accurate information before he discovers the internet version.

When Joey started sixth grade in August, they sent home a "sensitive topics" opt out form.  This year, they are supposed to cover bodily changes during puberty in health class.  I don't think they've talked about that yet, because when the conversation took a turn toward the fact that he might have some hormones starting, I again got the "broccoli stare."  What are hormones?  So we looked that up.  And horror of horrors, the word "sex" had all of a sudden come into the picture, because it's actually in the definition of hormones.

Which led to a conversation about what hormones are, how they work, why he suddenly feels the need to question authority, how the influx of testosterone into his little body might make him feel angry for no good reason, and how it's acceptable to express that anger and when.  It also led to the discussion of how his body is going to be changing.  Which had me asking myself, "Why is it always me that ends up with the "sex talk?"

If we had girls, I would have fully expected to have "the talk" three times.  But we had boys, which led me to believe that Justin would handle that area of expertise.  After all, what the hell do I know about how boys go through their teenage years?  But the subject had come up and I had to be the adult and address it.

I think it went pretty well.  He didn't cry....quite.  I think he might have been close though.  Hormones at work, probably.  Or embarrassment that he was discussing these weird feelings with Mom, of all people.  I didn't want to be having the discussion and neither did he, but I took the responsible high road and stated the facts.  About how his body would change.

I'm leaving the sex talk for Justin.  After all, I took the first two kids.

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