Whoa! Preteens are a straight up thing!
It’s not that I was unaware of this, only that this morning’s meltdown from my 11 year old nephew caught me by complete and utter surprise.
Due to the recent opening of schools in Michigan, I’m helping my sister by staying at home with the boys. She is a teacher at the school and needs to be there daily. The kids are on opposite schedules; while one is in class the other is home working on online assignments. So here we are, me and my baby boy – the first grandson of the family – sitting at the table, glaring at each other.
“I HATE THIS AND GROWING THINGS IS STUPID!” He writes at the top of his paper making sure I can see every ‘T’ crossed and ‘I’ dotted. This is his assignment. He’s supposed to be writing about what it means to grow things, plants specifically.
“Alexa, put 15 minutes on a timer please!”
“15 MINUTES!!” His young pain fills the air. This is potentially the longest he’s ever gone without looking at a screen. “I can’t write for 15 minutes!”
All I can do is laugh. I’ve been doing this short burst writing for the past several weeks now and I find that he’s right, writing for 15 minutes is really hard. To get out all you need to say in such a short period of time is nearly impossible.
He sits there, looking around, changing his music, cracking his knuckles, pursing his little lips until they look ready to fall off of his face. There are several eye rolls, a few big sighs and a steady head banging as I add time to the Alexa.
“Alexa, add 5 minutes to the timer.”
“ARRRRGGGHHHHH UGHUGHUGHGUGHGHH….. THIS. IS. SO. STUPID!”
He starts off slowly, despising me and the task I’ve asked him to take. However, after not so long, the words turn from hating me to really thinking about the questions he’s been asked to solve. I can see his brain turning as he settles into his seat and feels the words flow from his mechanical pencil. He thinks as he clicks more lead to the tip.
“Five minutes remain,” Alexa patters in the background.
The air around the once hostile table is cooling. A few pieces of cereal make it from bowl to mouth and his demeanor finds balance. He’s still not happy, but he’s not angry either.
I dare to speak, requesting small bits of information.
“What question are you working on now?”
“The stupid question is stupid. They want to know if I would rather grow a food plant or a decorative plant, which is stupid,” he snaps.
“Why stupid?” I place innocently.
“Because! I would prefer not to do either of those things because they aren’t productive and are therefore stupid.” His syntax is surprisingly apt.
“But what about the cereal you’re eating… Someone had to have grown that. So for them growing plants is productive. What’s something productive for you?”
“Well, then, how about a sentence that says just that: ‘I would prefer not to grow either type of plant, because I feel putting that time and energy into the things that I enjoy is best for my growth’?”
Wow, can’t get anywhere with this little ball of feelings. He goes back to his writing, yet I look over and see him rephrase my example onto his paper. I instantly worry. I don’t want him simply copying down what I’ve told him, but then he goes onto the next prompt. He remains on the topic of swords.
I can feel his energy begin to rise as he pours into the page his love and interest in the matter of sword craftsmanship. The pouty lips turn to straight lines as his concentration and focus take a turn for the better. He just starts to roll with the writing when…
*RING, RING, RING*
Alexa breaks us the news that our 15 minutes are up. There is actually a small sign of disappointment from the other side of the table.
“Are we done growing for the moment?”
He finishes his sentence, puts down his pencil, and looks up at me.
“I like writing,” he reports jumping down to find his screen again.
“See,” I add rubbing his back. “Growth doesn’t have to be so bad.”