I am sitting on the front stoop, coffee cup in hand, daydreaming about a little cherry cheeked boy. The one that used to race up the front lawn (world around him be damned) in order to wrap himself in a Mom hug.
He could not get to me, then the center of his universe, fast enough.
Breathless with awe over his bestest kindergarten day ever, he spilled the beans on his older sister misbehaving at recess. Then he handed me a crumpled creased Mother’s Day picture with a giant heart and an “I Love you” with a perfect backwards L.
I now watch this same child, I mean man-child (15-year-old to be exact) saunter past me with nary a glance. I detect a grunt however. I believe it’s in response to my same stupid and annoying question, “How was your day?”
Being ignored fuels the feeling-challenged response in me.
I try to work the crowd (you, my oldest son) much like a comedian fires jokes at a non-responsive audience.
“Did the coach say anything in practice today about the line-up for next week’s game?”
“I like the new logo on your shirt.”
Barely perceptible nod.
We do our Mother-Son dance, our new daily ritual. I talk. You balk. I show interest. You show disdain. I cry when you’re not looking. I think I am in some kind of mourning as if I have lost you. Yet you stand here before me so that makes little sense.
Then again it makes all the sense in the world.
I am clinging obsessively to the past when you cuddled and snuggled and gave me raspberries kisses and memorized Good Night Moon. When you climbed into our bed at the first crack of thunder and had me perform nightly bogeyman checks. The tooth fairy and I had a fabulous relationship. I miss her too! And those crayola drawings made with those little hands. The ones aging in folders I still cannot part with. Poor Santa was dissed over 7 years ago!
It seems an injustice.
I raised you to be a proud and compassionate and independent young man. That is exactly who you are becoming. Instead of celebrating your incredible victory (and mine), I remain steadfastly stuck in the past.
I would appreciate if you would bear with me. When you become a Dad, I think you’ll understand.
I am struggling to separate and allow you to test your wings. I am afraid I already know that you can fly. I am scared to death that you will fly away, far away and never want to nest again. I guess I want you to stay on the ground for a little while longer. I know it’s selfish to ask you to oblige and comply with my mom angst. I have laid out my emotional dilemma. It seems of epic proportions.
Perhaps I need counseling. Someone to talk me through raising a teenager.
Did you roll your eyes at me just now? Mind if I count that as interaction between us? I mean in order to roll your eyes you must have been listening and that stands for something right? Your eye roll was accompanied by some mumbled words. I feel we are making progress!
You rummage through the snack drawer.
My mom instinct? I want to offer you a juice box and some fruit roll-ups like the old days. I leave you to scavenge.
I am left behind in your wake of Oreo’s and Doritos.
Remind me one more time. When did you stop checking under your pillow for the tooth fairy’s change? Why wasn’t I notified?
Our paths cross again in the evening. I remind you it’s time for electronics to be turned off for the night. Please say goodnight to your friends. I am still the parent around here and there are rules and this is my house and you need to follow them! I didn’t say any of that although if I had I would have sounded strikingly similar to my mother (minus the electronics remark) whom I swore I would never become. Surprise!
In my 3 a.m. wakefulness, I decide that a different approach is necessary if we are both to survive your adolescence.
The wind whips around making the bleachers feel awfully cold today. Look at you out there in your new baseball jersey! My fingers are crossed and I say my silent prayer that you don’t get hurt. Everything else is icing on the cake.
I am Happy Dancing! Not that you can see of course. I recall the peer pressure lecture. Don’t worry. I will not embarrass you. It’s a silent dance. It takes place alone in my heart. Game over and the team disbands. I head towards the car. I used to run on the field ten times per game with water and wipes and questions about having to pee. And hugs too! Loads of those.
Are you heading towards me?
Do I hug you? (Peers might be lurking.) No, I pat you on the shoulder, right? Say, “Good game, bud!”
I’m way overthinking this.
Whoa whoa whoa!!! Did you just kiss me?
“Thanks for coming to my game, Mom. I’ll be home in a little while.”
When you were a little kid you ran up the lawn. That’s what you were meant to do. As a teenager you saunter up the front lawn with puffed out swagger. That’s what you’re meant to do. It’s about growing up. I don’t have to like it all the time. I do have to accept that it will happen with or without my consent.
You know what? I may surprise you someday. I’ve decided to adopt a new mindset. The little boy I loved came happily home each day. The grumpy teenager I love begrudgingly so.
But in the end all that matters is that you still come home, and it’s here that I can make all the difference in the world!