While I can't say I never received any warning that this day would come, I'm still forced to admit that I am completely unprepared to be the mama of a tween. But my 5th grader is indeed a tween, and he has the cranky demeanor to prove it.
The problem here isn't just that JT is growing up (that I expected). It isn't even that I miss having a little boy around the house (though I surely do). The challenge for me is the patches of moody adolescence that have suddenly turned up at Sassafras House.
More than once in the past few weeks, I've walked out of the room and let JT struggle, rather than try to help a kid who is so clearly itching for a fight. I've made clear - repeatedly - that certain tones of voice may not be used toward me. For the first time in years, I've sent him to his room to cool off.
I know that if I give it time, and lengthen my rope of patience, we'll find common footing in this new territory. I know that a constant wave of correction from me, however warranted it may be, won't have the desired result. I have long maintained the 5 for 1 rule, whereby I say at least 1 good thing for every 5 corrections. But some days that's a hard ratio to reach.
Since I became a single mama, when the going gets rough I have repeated one refrain to myself so often that it's become a mantra: Just do your best. So far, that's always done the trick. But I'm not going to lie: in the past few weeks as I've repeated that to myself I've begun to fear that my best isn't good enough.
But it's the only tool I've got. And I'm not the sort to give up. So my best will have to do.