This past weekend I felt too old to be raising three teenagers. I have fifty-two year old nerve endings that are frayed from twenty-three years of parenting. I’m vulnerable to the unpredictable, but frequent, teenage emotional eruptions that occur around me. They make me skittish.
My oldest son has moved from being a man/teen to the twenty-something stage of life. He has come full circle and is pleasant company, sincerely asks for our advice, voluntarily does the dishes, and can be home for a month without one tense moment.
I thumbed my nose at my advanced maternal age designation when I had Eli at thirty-five and the twins at thirty-seven. Like everyone in their thirties, I was still a little delusional about the inevitability of getting older. I had no vision of what the fifties would feel like or how raising teenagers accelerates the aging process.
The girls are fourteen so there is double the drama and constant confirmation that I’m embarrassing, irrelevant, and mean. For self-preservation’s sake, I am resurrecting a coping mechanism from my repertoire that had been previously reserved for our disturbed second Rottweiler Oscar.
Oscar came to live with us after our beloved first Rottweiler, Toby, died. If I were to diagnose Oscar using the DSM-V, the standard criteria for the classification of mental disorders, he would be labeled as anti-social.
We were warned. When Oscar was just a cute fluff-ball of a puppy, he would growl and fight our vet when he rolled him on to his back. The vet said it was not a good sign and we should think about putting him down. Of course we were horrified at the suggestion.
Instead we “managed” his personality disorder for the next eight years. He had medical problems too. In the first year, Oscar had double hip replacement for his dysphasia and abdominal surgery to remove his undescended testicles. A few years later he grazed the arm of a child who hit him with a stick and was then quarantined for rabies.
Oscar had a few good qualities, the most important being that he was a noble friend to our German Shepherd, Maude, who was heartbroken when Toby died.
By the time the girls came along, Oscar was a grouchy old dog with painful hips and a disdain for creatures that were smaller than him, including my twin daughters. At this point we thought about finding him another home – putting him down was not an option for Matthew. Ultimately, neither of us felt like we could, with a clear conscience, pass Oscar off to someone else.
Oscar liked Matthew and Leo and tolerated Eli. He respected me as the alpha bitch of the house. He knew I would take him out if he hurt my girls. I was definitely not his favorite although most of the “managing” of Oscar was my job.
Since I have known Matthew he has held a non-negotiable belief that we make a pact with the universe every time we take on a pet that promises we will care and nurture each animal for its entire life.
In an effort to uphold our contract with the universe, we spent a fortune on a house-calling dog psychologist to help us with our crazy Rottweiler. She had a plan to de-alphatize Oscar and it actually worked fairly well. We trained him to walk away from the girls and he was allowed only supervised contact with them. When the girls came near him, he would grudgingly move to another place all the while growling and baring his teeth.
Oscar did not transformed into a fun-loving family dog but he never bit or hurt anyone. We fulfilled our contract with the universe to love and guide Oscar for his entire life. When he had to be put to sleep after his lung cancer became too much for him, our entire family gathered around him on the vet’s floor to see him to the other side.
It goes without saying that I cherish my teenagers to the core and am honored and blessed to have these extraordinary children in my life.
But … there are moments while raising our teenagers when I have to remember that we made a contract with the universe. It outlines the promise that we made to love and shepherd our obstinate, unpredictable, delightfully funny, smart and foolish, vicious and kind, wise and irrational teenagers into young adulthood and beyond. I will recognize them again when they come full circle and be in awe of the people they become.
It’s a great deal in the end.