One of the difficult things about having older kids is the uncomfortable realization that the person you fiercely love with every molecule in your body is kind of an asshole.

See, this is different from when they were a toddler and constantly acted like an asshole, because even in the depths of dealing with an stage that’s basically like parenting a living Trump tweet there is a sane corner of your mind that remembers the asshole-ness isn’t their fault. They’re hungry, or tired, or the rapidly branching synapses in their brains have clanged into one another, or whatever. Your toddler may be screeching or throwing food or biting the soft underpart of your forearm with the jaw force of a lyssavirus-stricken raccoon but they’re simply not old enough to be an asshole.

It’s true that tweens are buffeted by even more savage developmental hurricanes, what with the hormones and emotional rollercoasters and emerging crises of self-identity and so on, but now they wear the same shoe size you do and so when a giant almost-teenager starts being shitty it doesn’t feel like a glitch in the system, it feels like 100% authentic, grade-A assholism.

Tantruming is a thing of the past, but now I have to navigate contempt (“Right, like you would know”), exhausting arguments (“So you’re saying [insanely extreme thing I most definitely did NOT say]??? Well I guess you just want me to [bizarre example that in no way is ever going to happen]!!!”), and emotional manipulation (“You’re going to the gym? Oh. I just thought we were going to do something fun today *heavy sigh*”). It’s one thing to be faced with the unpleasant but involuntary reactions of a helpless child, it’s another to deal with the deliberate tactics of the ASSHOLE.

At our house, bouts of Extreme Asshole Behavior are thankfully brief so far, but when we’re in it I am not at all able to consider the many potential factors affecting his attitude, I’m too busy worrying that I have in fact raised a for-real and not-temporary asshole. Then I feel bad because I love this asshole so very, very much and sometimes when I look at him I still see the tiny baby he once was and so my reaction is sort of like:

Eventually, he always goes back to being the funny, loving, and all-around awesome kid he is. In most ways I feel like this whole parenting gig is a million times better than when they were little, but when things get tough it’s not about someone being a challenge or fussy or spirited, it’s a whole new world: Planet Asshole.


25 Responses to “Dr. Jeckle and Mr. Asshole”

  1. Kristi on January 8th, 2018 3:30 pm

    Must give out free tickets to that planet at school.I think my son laminated his.

  2. Karen on January 8th, 2018 3:38 pm

    Is it wrong to feel this way about a seven year old? That I’m raising a legit asshole and not just one getting ready for a (hopefully, return-) trip to Planet Asshole?

  3. Jessica V. on January 8th, 2018 3:50 pm

    YES – THIS! I have a 12 1/2 year old and the constant eye-rolling, sarcasm and statements of inanity that always begin with “so BASICALLY,” ramble on through some bullshit that is NOT AT ALL THE POINT, and then end with “for whatever reason.” Usually with a “randomly” thrown in for good measure. It’s exhausting. #solidarity

  4. Pete on January 8th, 2018 4:00 pm

    The best quote about raising kids came from the Movie Parenthood…

    Frank: [on parenting] It’s like your Aunt Edna’s ass. It goes on forever and it’s just as frightening.

    Gil: That’s true.

    Frank: There is no end zone. You never cross the goal line, spike the ball and do your touchdown dance. Never.

  5. Donna Plumley Brubach on January 8th, 2018 4:03 pm

    I remember those days and they do mostly grow out of it. But you’ll have seriously gray hair by then. Choking is NOT an option hon.

  6. Koa on January 8th, 2018 4:18 pm

    I get every one of those lines verbatim from my about to be 9 year old, daily. I’ve wondered if he’s just a bery self aware/manipulative asshole child, or is entering puberty early, causing the assholeness. In both versions I’m afraid I did something wrong. I definitely didn’t eat hormone filled chicken when I was pregnant so maybe he is a bad seed? Until he says “kiss mom.”

  7. barb. on January 8th, 2018 4:46 pm

    Are you sure you’re describing your kid? Because *my* 12yo pulls this shit constantly and I’m losing my mind. I don’t know that the pair of us are going to survive this particular parenting/growing-up milestone. There are days where it definitely feels like a last-man-standing situation and I’m losing. His favorite maneuver is to gaslight me: “I NEVER said/did (thing that he absolutely did/said). I NEVER would. YOU must be LYING.”

  8. Jeanette on January 8th, 2018 5:48 pm

    I sure don’t miss those days! They will grow out of it but in the meantime choose your battles! I always tried to not sweat the small stuff and kept the hysterics for when I really needed it!

  9. April on January 8th, 2018 7:13 pm

    I love that you are writing more again- it is such a treat! Thank you!

    Many, many years ago you used a video of my older boy for some advertising thing- I wonder if you remember that? (It was a belly-laughing baby.)

    My boys are 8 and 9, so I’m seeing glimpses of the jerkiness in my older guy. It’s really disconcerting to me that his brain is like a little locked black box: I have no idea what’s going on in there and certainly he is starting to have thoughts about all sorts of things that I have no idea about. At least I still have the younger one who still adores me like a good mama’s boy should. For now.

  10. Francesca on January 8th, 2018 11:39 pm

    Am I allowed to say that this is such a relief? Is that ME being an asshole? It’s just I get the same (but from the sounds of it, more of it) ALL. THE. TIME. And now my 9 year old has begun to join the ranks of Captain Aasholes. And I guess I say relief, because I play through my head time after time WHERE DID I GO WRONG??? And HE’S GOING TO BE AN ASSHOLE AT 34 AND NO ONE WILL EVER LIKE HIM!!!! Reading your post and the replies makes me feel maybe it’s not ALL my fault and in fact, reminds me of the very things that may be behind the moods and the attitude. Thank you.

  11. jennb33 on January 9th, 2018 6:52 am

    My daughter turns 13 tomorrow. NA Beer me strength.
    I just shut their shit down and tell them My House My Rules and no I can’t wait until you can move out EITHER and be your own person and have your own jobs and your own bills. Until then, you’re stuck with me. Lucky us.

  12. Heather on January 9th, 2018 8:56 am

    Thank you for this! My 12-year-old son is also making frequent trips to Planet Asshole. It’s reassuring (I think?) to know he’s not the only one.

  13. Anonymous on January 9th, 2018 9:55 am

    Twin 10 year old boys. Not only are they beginning to become assholes, but they like to stagger their asshole behavior so that at any given time, someone is doing something that makes me rethink all my parenting choices and just assume they are turning into permanent douch bags. UGH!! But thank you for voicing this! Your post and the comments make me realize that all of our little assholes will at least grow up and have each other! Haha!

  14. Sarah on January 9th, 2018 10:00 am

    I really wanted to post a link to this, because it makes me feel oh so much better about my children (11,13, and almost 16 y/o step son), but it’s my youngest’s birthday and I don’t want to admit publicly that he can be a bit of an asshole on this day. But it’s so, so true. For awhile we were in therapy together, because I really felt like some of it was because his dad and I divorced, but it’s really a relief to figure out, nope, he’s doing well from that standpoint. It’s just the nature of children.

  15. Shawna on January 9th, 2018 1:28 pm

    My daughter is still great at almost 12, but my 9 year old boy is, well, kind of a jerk sometimes. And I tell him so.

    His sister and I were astounded he sorted into Hufflepuff, when that would have seriously been my 3rd or 4th choice – I was totally expecting Slytherin. Maybe Ravenclaw as #2.

  16. Shawna on January 9th, 2018 1:33 pm

    *backpedaling quickly* I also say very nice stuff to my son. I just point out he’s being a jerk when he’s actively being unpleasant. I point out when he’s being great too, and mention his good qualities frequently.

    What I’m saying is, I don’t go around all, “you jerk!” to him all the time.

  17. Shawna on January 9th, 2018 1:35 pm

    I notice the majority of comments that say “us too!” are about boys. I wonder if this is more commonly a boy thing? Not that girls are exempt, or that it’s all boys, but I’m just wondering if the majority of the tween Planet Asshole inhabitants are boys.

  18. Courtney on January 9th, 2018 2:28 pm

    My son does this (like, those exact annoying ridiculous statements) and he’s eight. EIGHT! What am I going to do when he’s a teenager? the best part is when he tells me he’s acting that way because of me or something I’m saying to him.

    But then other times he just wants to snuggle and hug me and read Anne of Green Gables together.

  19. g~ on January 9th, 2018 3:51 pm

    For my situation, I think that the asshole behavior feels worse because it’s buffeted by such awesomeness. Mine are 12 and 14.
    I love, love, LOVE that my kids are easy, mature, interactive, clever, hilarious actual people I want to hang around MOST of the time. Compared to when they were tiny dictator toddlers, this age wins hands down. So when they act like assholes, it throws it into stark relief because YOU KNOW they know better and can be so great.

  20. Beth on January 10th, 2018 5:48 pm

    This post and comments have given me so much comfort as my just turned 9 year old has recently been giving me fits with his sometimes asshole behavior. I was feeling like a big parenting failure. Glad to know he isn’t unique!

  21. nonsoccermom on January 10th, 2018 10:43 pm

    My daughter turned 10 just after Christmas and last night had what I can only assume was her first true hormone-related meltdown. We were having a calm conversation in which I offered a few options for repaying money she owes me when suddenly she burst into tears and started screeching about how I was punishing her and everything is just so unfair. It was rather jarring.

    After a bit of shocked reflection, I was reminded of my son at age 10. It took a few months of careful tiptoeing around those unexpected landmines but it passed fairly quickly and he turned back into his pleasant self. He’s 15 now and honestly one of the sweetest people I know.

    Hang in there, is what I’m saying. We’ll all survive this together. Somehow.

    (Good to see you writing regularly again, btw!)

  22. Amy on January 11th, 2018 12:46 pm

    You’ve just explained my soon-to-be 10 year old son. I feel a little better it’s not just me/him, it’s the age. (Please let it be the age!)

  23. Mary Clare on January 12th, 2018 2:56 pm

    I definitely have to grow some thicker skin for this stuff. My daughter’s former coping mechanism was to run to me crying when something frustrated her. Now she pushes me away when I go in for a hug and tells me I’m treating her like a baby. Oof, it’s like a gut punch. I still get to cuddle with her at bedtime for now.

  24. April on January 15th, 2018 6:56 am

    We’re in the sweet spot between incredibly annoying 7-9 and total jerk. It won’t last.

  25. misguidedmommy on January 16th, 2018 9:24 am

    12 is worse. Way way way fucking worse. I thought 10 was bad. However I currently have a 10 and 12 year old, and my ten year old is a fucking angel compared to the nightmare that is a 12 year old boy. Door slamming, crying, shouting about how unfair life is and what an awful mom I am, and how no one else in the history of the world has to do their homework and I’m the ONLY MOM IN THE WHOLE SCHOOL that cares about grades and missing assignments and IT’S NOT FAIR.

    Meanwhile the ten year old is behaving like a totally rational human.

    It just gets worse. I can’t lie.

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