It’s Just a Phase

For over a year now, I’ve worried about my older son’s attitude (he is nine now).  Whenever we asked him to do something around the house, we got a mouthy response, which was followed by a time-out (for him, not us.)  I grew concerned that this was a sign of worse things to come.  I imagined teenage years filled with disregard for authority and weekends spent talking at him through a plexiglass window.   (I say talking “at” him because I had pictured him flopped back in his chair, arms folded over his chest and eyes rolled up to the ceiling.)

I found no comfort in the assurances of warriors parents who survived raising children and now told me that it was “just a phase.”

Over a month ago, tired of being told how mean I was, I began to charge him a quarter for every time he called me “mean.”  He already thought I was mean, so really, I had nothing to lose by living up to his perceptions, and everything to gain.  (Well, I gained $2.75 that first week.)  Three weeks later, I’m happy to report that he earned his full allowance this week without penalties for honesty 🙂

As quickly as he entered the smart-aleck phase, he seems to have become kind again.  This growth ring in the trunk of his life might have an official name, but I call it the, “Oh-my-goodness-maybe-I’m-not-a-total-failure-and-maybe-he-won’t-end-up-in-juvie” phase.  I also wonder in the back of my mind if he’s been abducted by aliens.  I’d really like to know so I can offer my younger son to them at the beginning of the previous phase.

On Sunday, I was surprised when he wanted to go to the grocery store with me.  He brought his wallet and the $12 he earned from selling some toys at a garage sale on Saturday.  He wanted to buy a passion fruit or a dragon fruit, neither of which are in season right now, so he settled on a bottle of lemonade.  It’s good he has his own money, because I would not have spent $1.82 on lemonade, but he said it was the “best lemonade he’s ever had.”  I must be mean since I have deprived him of this for his entire life.

In the nine years I’ve known him, I’ve learned to expect the unexpected.  He’s always had a different way about him.  Even so, I was a bit surprised when he kept searching through the floral department.  As I browsed the gift card rack nearby, I noticed he kept picking up plants and putting them down.  After about eight plants, I asked him what he was looking for.  His response:  “A plant I can afford.”

We determined that he wanted to spend under $5 on a plant.  He finally found one for $3.99 that he loved.  The tag simply read “Foliage.”

Meet "Foliage"

Here’s the deal.  I am a plant murderer.   I have good intentions, but I have managed to kill every plant I have ever owned:  Ficus, Coleus, African Violet, several types of herbs, and even a cactus.  I’ve even resorted to silk plants and it doesn’t take long for them to look withered, too.

I have no idea what this “Foliage” plant is, or the proper care, so I’ll leave it entirely in my son’s hands.  I’ll pray his thumbs are greener than mine.

As I enjoyed the sweetness of Sunday, it struck me that as parents, we are rather optimistic.  When we go through rough patches with the kids, we call it a phase.  When we see kindness and a gentle nature, we don’t call that a phase – we rejoice in the innocence and goodness that is our child.


34 thoughts on “It’s Just a Phase

  1. Richard W Scott November 15, 2011 / 6:13 PM

    A very good story. It sounds like a breakthrough, and while it may not be the “be all and end all” of breakthroughs, it seems like movement in a good direction.

    • jannatwrites November 15, 2011 / 8:54 PM

      Oh, I’m sure there will be plenty more bumps in the road, Richard! I really needed this break from the sassy pants phase, but I’m a bit nervous about what delight will be served up next…

  2. nrhatch November 15, 2011 / 6:23 PM

    Of course, the skeptic in me wonders what’s on his wish list for Christmas . . . and how proximate his birthday is to this turning over of a new leaf. 😉

    Or maybe he’s hoping that . . .

    Oh, never mind, I’m sure that it’s stellar parenting coming to the surface of its own accord.

    Fingers crossed that this “phase” lasts.

    • jannatwrites November 15, 2011 / 9:00 PM

      Are you sure you’re not a parent, Nancy? That sounds like my mom’s line of thought!

      Sheesh, he missed his birthday (that was August). He wants an iPad2 for Christmas, and after I stopped laughing, I told him it wasn’t going to happen. Then he said Santa could bring one. Poor child is bound to be disappointed because I’m pretty sure Santa doesn’t give out iPads. If he did, I’d start writing my letter now! I could be really nice for the next month 😉

      Stellar parenting? Hardly! I think we just got lucky…he’s taking a break while he figures out what he can put us through next!

  3. chlost November 15, 2011 / 7:01 PM

    I can’t remember the name of that plant, but I have 2 of them. They are pretty tough. Just so he doesn’t over water them. They will have a long white flower eventually. Mine don’t like direct sunlight, they are in the east windows.
    And being mean is why we are parents and not friends. Congratulations on successfully surviving one of the testing grounds of parenthood. He’s sounds like a good kid. You will all do fine.

    • jannatwrites November 15, 2011 / 9:06 PM

      Ooh, a flowering plant…he will like that surprise. I hope it lives long enough to get the flower. Thanks for the care tips, Chlost. Maybe the poor little plant will have chance.

      He is a good boy, just a bit strong-willed. I’m glad we made it through that phase, too. I’m just trying to enjoy this calm and not think of what will be next 🙂

  4. whatimeant2say November 15, 2011 / 7:24 PM

    I never thought of it that way – how the bad parts are “just a phase”, but we hope that the good moments can be ascribed to their genetic makeup!

    • jannatwrites November 15, 2011 / 9:09 PM

      I guess if things get bad enough, we could finally admit that the kid is rotten to the core, but it’s so much better to walk on the hopeful side.

      Thanks for stopping by, Whatimeant2say. I appreciate your comment!

  5. pattisj November 15, 2011 / 10:16 PM

    Wilted silk flowers! lol Maybe this whole scouting thing is paying off? Maybe someone told him his mom is cool…

    • jannatwrites November 16, 2011 / 8:13 PM

      Funny, Patti! If someone told him I was cool, I’d know that person was a liar 🙂 Whatever the reason, I’ll take the sweetness while it lasts!

  6. Widdershins November 16, 2011 / 12:37 AM

    I think ‘Foli’ might be a calla lilly … and probably needs a bigger pot sometime soon too … if it is, the flowers are spectacular.

    • jannatwrites November 16, 2011 / 8:14 PM

      Oooh, I love Calla Lillies, Widdershins. That would be a nice surprise. I was afraid it would need a bigger pot. That’s a huge opportunity for me to accidentally kill it….

      • Widdershins November 16, 2011 / 10:49 PM

        Get somebody else to do it … the son, bride him if you have to. It’s part of ‘ownership’

        • Widdershins November 16, 2011 / 10:50 PM

          Oops … bribe him … not bride him … *chortles to self*

        • jannatwrites November 17, 2011 / 9:39 PM

          That was a funny typo, Widdershins, so I left it 🙂

        • jannatwrites November 17, 2011 / 9:36 PM

          He will do most of the work, but someone will have to help to make sure he doesn’t bust up the roots. I won’t be the one with dirt under her nails, though!

  7. suzicate November 16, 2011 / 5:49 AM

    See, their good times way outweigh their ornery ones even though when in the midst of one it doesn’t seem like it.

    • jannatwrites November 16, 2011 / 8:47 PM

      During the good times, it’s easier to forget about how bad the not-so-good-times were 🙂

  8. Tori Nelson November 16, 2011 / 8:02 AM

    Love the last sentence. Just perfectly sums up the hope of a mama! Great post, Janna, and good luck with Foliage!

    • jannatwrites November 16, 2011 / 8:47 PM

      Thanks, Tori! I hope Foliage makes it through the winter…

  9. cuhome November 16, 2011 / 11:33 AM

    Very sweet. I remember trying to figure out whether my child (during the teenage and pre-teen years) was “just going through a phase”, or was truly sending out signals for help and needed to see a counselor. OMG, it can be a hand-wringing time. The worst thing that happened with my two girls is that one of them ran off with a boyfriend to join the Scientologists . . . she ended up coming back home, but only because I didn’t throw a fit of resistance. Yes, it’s hard to know what the response is during those years. But I guess I did okay, because one daughter is now 34 and one is 28, and they’re reasonably happy human beings, who even tell me they love me! Hang in, Janna. This, too, shall pass. And even become fodder for laughter in the future. I’m just now being let in on some antics that went on under my nose while my daughters were young. All I can say is: I’m glad I didn’t know some of that stuff at the time! d:^) You are doing a great job!

    • jannatwrites November 16, 2011 / 8:52 PM

      I’ve already had questions about whether he was normal or something was wrong, Janet. If he makes it safely into adulthood (preferrably without jail time) and still talks to me when he doesn’t have to, I’ll call it a success!

      I admire your strength in not reacting to her running off. I guess you sensed that it was the right way to handle it. I don’t speak of the secrets of my childhood, so the record still stands that I was a “perfect angel.” 😉

  10. clarbojahn November 16, 2011 / 6:36 PM

    When my youngest was about nine he wanted plants,too. He has continued to like them, often buying me another for mothers day. I am glad you encouraged this in your son, as it is sure to “flourish”.

    • jannatwrites November 16, 2011 / 8:53 PM

      That’s interesting about your youngest, Clar. I’m curious if it will be the same for my son. Time will tell.

      Thanks for stopping by today 🙂

  11. pattyabr November 16, 2011 / 11:31 PM

    Janna – If you don’t want to kill “Foliage” you’d better get a bigger pot because he’s a pretty big plant for that little pot he is sitting in.

    I can relate to the mother-son story. My 23 yr old son is coming home tomorrow night for a week. He’ hasn’t been home for a month which is the longest since he started his full time job since graduating. Maybe I’ll get to bond with him since my husband is on work trip. I’ve been “mean” in my son’s lifetime as well. We’ll see if we’ve moved onto adult interactions.

    • jannatwrites November 17, 2011 / 9:41 PM

      I think you are right, Patty. I’ll take him to the store this weekend so he can buy a bigger pot.

      I hope you have a nice visit with your son. I’m sure as he matures, he will realize you did the best you could and tried to look out for his best interests. If he’s not there yet, he will be one day 🙂

  12. Debbie November 17, 2011 / 9:10 AM

    Oh, Janna, this takes me back! I so recall the hurt I felt the first time my son called me ‘mean.’ He, too, went through that mouthy phase your son was in; fortunately, it didn’t last long. Especially with first kids, we tend to over-analyze and worry — probably why so many of them grow up to do stupendous things!! Chin up, mom, and hang in there!

    • jannatwrites November 17, 2011 / 9:45 PM

      Thanks for the support, Debbie. I remember when he told me he hated me when he was about four years old. Once I stopped laughing, I told him, “I’m sorry to hear that, but I love you anyway.” After a few times, he decided it wasn’t much fun because he wanted to hurt my feelings but it didn’t work!

      We had an encore of the mouthiness tonight. Crossing my fingers it doesn’t last.

  13. jeanne November 17, 2011 / 9:17 PM

    Your plant is a spathiphyllum and indeed it will flower. This plant like your son is full of surprises. They both need a little nurturing and to live within their boumndaries. Two of my favorite books are Boundaries by Henry Cloud and 5 love languages by Gary Chapman. Both have editions that relate specifically to kids and teens. We must aways be the parent even when we would rather be the friend. Being the friend has never worked out for me…so I have to stick to being the parent!

    • jannatwrites November 17, 2011 / 10:15 PM

      I Google-searched the name and found out it requires little sunlight and water. This plant might stand a chance!

      I’ve read that being a friend rarely works, so I hadn’t contemplated going that route. Thanks for the book recommendations, Jeanne!

  14. Carl D'Agostino November 18, 2011 / 8:01 PM

    Be glad you are not raising him in Miami. He’d be like a streetwise 20 year old thug or one who can handle one by the time he’s 11. I raised two here. They are as slick as slick can be. Here they’ll be better prepared parents because of it. As if that’s some form on consolation. I played to streets for 35 years as well so “I know what time it is” if you catch my flow. May only the very best in life come his way.

    • jannatwrites November 20, 2011 / 5:50 PM

      Thanks, Carl. Environment definitely does play a part when raising children (one of many pieces to the puzzles of children.) The waiting is the hard part, since it can take up to twenty years to figure out if we really messed up bad!

  15. mairzeebp November 21, 2011 / 11:30 PM

    I love that he wanted a plant and that he had chosen a budget for one. Smart kid. Here’s hoping his bank account stays in the black and that this kind phase that he has entered lasts so long that every quarter he ever earns remains his. He very well may have a greenhouse if he plays his cards right. 🙂

    • jannatwrites November 22, 2011 / 9:30 AM

      My kids are excellent teachers for me, Mairzeebp. It’s funny that I’m supposed to be raising them, but they are raising me in some ways! So far, his plant is alive, so we have hope 🙂

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