by Joan Ryan
Every Thursday morning, I walk with a small group of women through the wooded hills near my home. We like to think we do this for the exercise but mostly it's for the talking. We figure out all the important things, such as why our husbands can work a Palm Pilot with only a few minutes of instruction but still can't figure out how to switch on the dishwasher. But more times than not, the discussion turns to our children, the most confounding subject of all.
"You think the toddler stage is bad," my friend Lorna said the other day to one of our friends, the mother of young children. "Wait till you have teenagers." Lorna's son is thirteen. "He's home from school twenty minutes" she went on, "and you're ready to kill him. You can't say anything to him or he falls apart. You hate them but you love them so much. It's quite interesting."
My son is nine, inching toward his teenage years. Already he is becoming mysterious in the way that creatures on Animal Planet are. My husband and I observe him like documentarians, hoping to glean some clues as to why he crumples his homework in frustration one day and sticks with it like a beady-eyed accountant the next. Why he curls up next to us one night and won't tolerate so much as a kiss on the head the next.
My first understanding of what might be going on inside his head came when, in researching a newspaper story about boys, I attended one of Mike's