As a parent, I've read the wisdom of Child Development Experts, about how you're not supposed to compare your offspring, as they're each unique individuals with their own strengths, weaknesses, and personality traits. Instead, you should respect their differences while appreciating what makes them special in their own way. Furthermore, you don't ever want to damage their self-esteem by causing them to feel inferior to a sibling...blah blah blah. Well, I say the heck with all that, because this week the uppermost question in my mind with regards to my cherished sons is: who's really the more mature one at the moment?
On one side, we have Derek, two months shy of his 13th birthday, a tall 7th-grader immersed in Middle School Life with its complex brew of academic, athletic, and social demands. In the other corner there's Riley, a precocious, chatty 9 1/2 year old 4th-grader whose extra-curricular activities include Math Olympiad, Lego Club, and interfacing with pals on his Nintendo 3DS. Over the years as he's grown up, we've come to see Derek as a levelheaded, organized, bright kid...I mean, until recently. Adolescence might have snuck up on us, but it's apparently arrived with a vengeance. Suddenly Derek seems to be floating through life (that is, when he's not banging into walls with his gangly limbs or stumbling over his own gorilla-feet) like the proverbial absentminded professor--forgetting school assignments, asking where to find things, repeating conversations because he doesn't recall participating in them the first time. It's such a pervasive phenomenon, Husband has even labeled the syndrome: Teenage Boy Brain. (Catchy, yeah?) It explains why Derek brought home the best report card of his life First Quarter...followed by--you guessed it--the worst one Second Quarter. And all because of silly missed homeworks and careless errors that were completely avoidable if he were, um, "operating at his full intellectual capacity".
Meanwhile, Riley chugs along in his usual reliable way, thus far blessedly untouched by the storm of hormones affecting his big brother. He's steady, dependable, independent...and often says things that make everyone around him stop and stare as they issue from his cute little mouth, in his charmingly-boyish voice. Such as when we passed one of those signs on the side of the road that warns you about the daily danger of forest fires. Since it's the middle of Winter, and it was snowing at the time, Smoky the Bear indicated the risk was "Low". Riley snorted, "Low? It should say 'miniscule'!" "Um...yeaaahhh honey, you're absolutely right," I agreed...while Derek just turned to gape at him, shaking his head incredulously. Later that same day as we waited for the lift to pull us to the top of the tubing run, Riley sighed and said, "This isn't just slow; it takes an eternity." Let's just say HIS report card was (fortunately) no big surprise...
This weekend Derek attended a school friend's Bar Mitzvah; marking the first time he'd experience a Jewish temple service. It required him to dress up more formally than he's ever had to before--even borrowing a tie from Husband and a suit jacket from my girlfriend who has older sons. As I was banned from the proceedings (Derek forcefully informed me that "NO parents are going, Mom, NONE!" Alrighty, then...I'll stay home in my pjs and drink more coffee! Win!), I had to hear later from the celebrant's father that all of the guests were "perfect gentlemen, very well-behaved" during the (wait for it) two-and-one-half-hour ritual! Holy...Hebrew Rite of Passage...Rabbi, that's a lotta religion, right there! (And I have to admit, I had been a little apprehensive before sending him...unsupervised...because the other day at breakfast I had to admonish him about spilling food on his shirt...again...and remind him that he'd have to exercise decorum when eating in public at the party. He jokingly--I think--groaned, "I hate these social events. You can't act like savages." Oh. Dear.) No wonder, then, that Derek reported a spirited game of...football...broke out when they returned to the family's house for a catered lunch. Imagine a dozen or so teenage-ish kids in dress clothes running amok to burn off some steam...sigh...boys. Eh, he came home with some mud on his apparel, rather than ketchup--I suppose I can accept that.
So right now I'd have to say it's kind of a toss-up between who's behavior and emotional state is more advanced at any given moment. I just have to hope that as Derek continues his journey, wading through the stream of adolescence toward manhood, he regains his powers of critical thinking and his acute mental clarity...BEFORE Riley comes down with his own case of Teenage Boy Brain! (If there's a Patron Saint for Mothers of Adolescents, I beg of you: One at a Time, PLEASE!)