GAIL WHITE It's adolescence, and the aliens have landed
I have a 12-year-old alien living in my house.
I suspect that one night when my son Robert was 101/2, aliens stole into his room and took control of his brain.
The aliens do not control his brain all the time because I get a glimpse of the old Robert every once in a while.
Instead, they turn their control on and off like a light switch in a most unpredictable manner.
I have seen this alien possession in other children. Hormones are supposedly the cause. Time seems to be the cure.
All I want to know is WHEN.
This happy child that I bore and have reared for 12 years turned into an emotional wreck a few years back when the aliens invaded his bedroom.
One moment, the happy, laughing child I have known is playing joyfully. The next moment, an emotionally disturbed, miserable, often angry possession takes over, and the child I have known is gone.
Distancing: One of the most disturbing attributes of this alien control is Robert's lack of interest in our family. He doesn't seem to like us anymore.
I feel hurt by that. But I am comforted with the realization that his alien brain doesn't seem to like ANYTHING anymore.
Words that I have spent a decade denouncing have become his alien descriptions for everything.
"This show is stupid."
"I hate this book."
"Chores are dumb."
I am not sure what his alien mind likes, but I think it has something to do with his bike, the phone, instant messaging and anything else that doesn't involve Mom or Dad.
His friends have become alien-possessed as well.
I have learned that the only thing worse than one alien-possessed adolescent living in your house is two alien-possessed adolescents ANYWHERE.
They run around acting out in maniacal behavior, causing teachers to wring their hands and coaches to shake their heads.
They seem to know their behavior is out of control, but they don't seem to be able to control it. They are not yet strong enough.
Sudden strikes: The most unnerving aspect of the possession is its unpredictability.
Small daily rituals that have been performed thousands of times become huge emotional mountains.
"Do your homework" is suddenly an atrocity.
"Clear off the table" is an outrage.
Five minutes later, when an nonpossessed adult is prepared for an outburst, cleaning the bathroom or writing a report is no big deal at all.
The aliens have turned off the switch.
We have found that for our family to endure these alien-possessed years, new rules needed to be established.
Trying togetherness: We have created a "forced association" rule.
Some things our alien-possessed son may do alone or with his friends: go to the pool, hang out at football games, listen to music.
Other times, he is forced to associate with the rest of us -- dinnertime, church, family night.
He seems to have resigned to this fate.
As he approaches 13, the alien possession is still rampant, but there is a degree of control over it.
One evening, while enduring a "forced association" dinner, one of the younger, still-happy-and-content brothers was talking about a board game we had all played together.
Robert, pausing from his slumped-over gorging position, responded, "I loved that," in a sweet, nonpossessed voice.
The table became silent. Forks hung in midair.
I tried to remain calm and reserved, but my voice gave me away. "You did?" I asked, the excitement oozing through my teeth.
"Yeah, that was cool," he reaffirmed.
He liked it. It was cool.
I have engraved these words on my heart.
There is hope.
The aliens are moving on.