Why is my Child Perfectly Lovely to Everyone but me?

I have a brilliant, fearless and slightly deranged friend who is a middle school teacher.  By choice. And she isn’t an alcoholic.  Weird, right?  It was this friend who stopped me in the middle of a full on vent session about how much I felt like punching my twelve-year-old in the throat because he had started treating me like the village idiot every time I opened my mouth.  Settle down, I’d never touch a hair on my kid’s head–though my tween’s behavior makes me sympathetic to every nun who smacked my knuckles with a ruler to keep me in line.  I get it now, I totally get it.  She interrupted my tirade and offered these words that I will never forget, “If your kid is an a**hole to you but kind to the rest of the world, you’ve done a good job as a parent.”  So basically, suck it up buttercup.

She is right.

Is there a tween or teen out there who is compliant, complacent, even-keeled, level-headed, and always considerate of their parents?  I can actually hear you laughing.  I mean even us, the parents of these bundles of teenaged angst, were emotionally as awful to our parents back in the day when teenage hormones ruled our world as our progeny are to us.  We lived to tell the tale—and more importantly so did our parents.

But as parents, we can take it.  We can tolerate the eye-rolling treatment our children treat us to every day.  But believe it or not most of our kids, while exhibiting highly questionable behavior at home, generally act completely differently when we set them loose in the world.

We shouldn’t be surprised.  They’ve been doing this since toddler days.  I clearly remember watching my friend’s children acting like whining little brats with their parents but the minute they’d leave them with me and my sons for a play date those little devils transformed into complete angels.  I can only assume and hope that my children had similar personality improvements in those situations but the irony is that as a parent I never had the chance to enjoy the angelic transformation.

Flash forward ten years, my tween still follows that pattern.  He and his ten year old brother are back east enjoying three weeks of a gorgeous New England summer with his aunts and cousins sans parents.  And though when I left him he could barely speak to me without disdain dripping from every syllable it seems his angelic side is dominating.  Evidenced by this message my sister-in-law sent me, “We’ll take them anytime!  These boys are so much fun, happy, kind, thoughtful, and appropriately sarcastic…”  and my other sister-in-law sent me yet another slightly unbelievable text, “I am impressed how good Jack and Sam are with Lilliana”  Lilliana is their four-year-old cousin.  So basically my tween has the patience to deal with a four-year-old but his mother sends him over the edge. But I’ll take it!  This is what winning at parenting looks like.

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