How Was Your Day? Who’s Your New Friend?

As a mom, I lack patience. I want to know how their days were. Who said what? Anything fun? How was the test? What did you eat for lunch? Who’d you play with at recess? Did you make a new friend? Who did you talk to at…

Maybe after all these years of saying I was meant to have boys – and being happy about it – I really needed chatty girls who tell mom all.

But I am trying. During the ride home from school with my teenage boy, I am limiting myself to a quick “good day?”

“Yep.”

And in this quieter approach, I am starting to hear more. His first high school friend has two younger siblings, and he wouldn’t want to be an only child.

That was all I got Week One through Five.

Then yesterday, my son offered that his new friend “doesn’t know anything about Social Studies. Not even who the bad guys were in World War II. Or World I, but I guess that’s okay, because that’s more complicated.”

Apparently, the kid is good at math.

“He didn’t even have Social Studies in elementary school, the teachers were so bad. So, he couldn’t catch up in middle school. And now…”

Pause.

“I’ve made it my mission to teach him everything I know about Social Studies by the end of the year.”

I grinned. “And how does he feel about that?”

“Great!” as if every fourteen year old boy is eagerly waiting for his friends to teach him world history in the lunchroom.

It sounds like the start of a beautiful friendship.

 

 

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His Teenage Name Day

Sitting in the stands at yesterday’s late afternoon soccer game, I held my breath when my son got the ball in front of the goal.

The goalie caught his attempt, but it was a nice shot. Everyone cheered, and above the din, I heard his teammate – their best player nursing an injury – yell, “Nice try, Kelly!”

It took me out of the moment. Until then, none of my boys had been called anything but their first names. The names we chose for them.

But he is 13 – that age when teammates or classmates choose a different name for you. A last name. A shortened version of your own. A weird mashing of words that somehow, they think, describes you. A teenage badge of honor.

I was the only one who noticed. The only one who marked the moment as important.

Then today, another friend, “See ya tomorrow, Kelly!”

Awkward Party Moment

Last night at a Labor Day picnic, I was chatting with a friend of a friend. Someone I’ve met a few times but don’t really know.

My teenage son, almost as tall as I am, appeared at my shoulder, clearing his throat and politely interrupting our conversation.

“Mom, I am now an official member of the Illuminati.” Very serious.

“Really?” I flash a smile at the friend of a friend.

“I signed up on their website.”

“They have a website?”

Seems strange, because the Illuminati was a secret society formed in Bavaria in the 1700s. Often compared to the Freemasons, they appear in fiction as an underground, powerful, almost magical group pulling strings at the highest levels of world government and religion. They have been blamed for many of history’s conspiracies, wars, and other cataclysmic events.

A Youtuber recently re-introduced the Illuminati into pop culture with a hilarious video, thus bringing us to this awkward party moment.

“Now, if they ever need me, they can contact me.” He leaned in, “And I’m on it.”

With a quick nod, he left me standing with the friend of a friend. “More wine?”

How Do You Explain….

How do you explain to an introverted ninth grader that the best part of high school doesn’t happen in the classroom? That the school only really comes to life after the last bell rings.

Actors running lines for the fall play. The hammers of set-building. Click-click-click of cleats running through the hall to practice. Cheerleaders shouting. Choirs singing. Posters being illustrated for the next dance. Marching band trumpets blaring and that deep drumbeat echoing across the field in through the windows. Teams tinkering with robots, debating politics, inventing headlines for the school newspaper.

Just stay. Peek in the room. Pick something. Anything. Add to the noise.

Because after school, in those rooms or on that stage, they will be the first to know your name. To drag you to lunch tomorrow. To make this new school feel more like home.

First Two Days of High School

When he started at his last school, he was four, and his three-year-old brother was in class with him – a two-year preschool.

I walked him in every day. I waited until the teacher hugged him or shook his hand or said good morning. I volunteered in the classroom with other moms – for a number of us, it was our first or only. And we have been laughing, encouraging, comparing notes ever since.

But at this new school – high school – he forges his own path. No mom. No little brother fingerpainting at the next easel. Only one known friend among 500 in his class. We both know it would look silly for me to walk him in. I don’t know his teachers, and they haven’t watched him grow up. Don’t yet know his slow-to-reveal humor and wonderful personality.

His brother asked to come yesterday when I picked him up after his first day. “It feels weird that I’ve never even seen his school.”

And when our high schooler got out of the car on the morning of Day 2, he sighed, “I feel a little sad.”

Me too, sweetie. But you get stronger, more impressive every day. You’re going to do great!

Dinner with Teenagers

When you first have children, you look at them and think how absolutely beautiful they are. You want to hold them, smell them, make them laugh. But as they grow into teenagers, you start to see who they might become with their own set of passions and beliefs. And you see the day when you will learn from them.

They are suddenly interesting. Sometimes more interesting than your colleagues or friends because they are willing to talk about anything, pushing the envelope on your thinking without being afraid that they might offend you. Wondering about things you might not have thought to wonder about. Not knowing any better than to ask the questions you’re not supposed to ask “in good company.”

“Can I try a sip of that?”

Tonight, sitting around the fire pit, the conversation with our thirteen year old morphed from what happened at school today to whether a college education is important and if there is a difference is between Stanford or Harvard or Princeton and a school no one’s heard of. We discussed the education of the last few generations in our families. Left the old country before high school was done and worked as a bus driver. First to go to college. Focused on a premiere college because that was your guarantee of a better life. And now here we are, calling college an expensive IQ test and almost expecting it to implode before our children’s children think about applying.

A week or two ago, we talked about both sides of the abortion issue. Mom and dad, do you guys agree on this one? The black, white and gray of a complex, emotional issue.

And for the last two weeks, our fourteen year old lectured us at dinner on the complex and resilient history of Germany. We helped him strategize about how to win WWII in his-school assigned role as the leader of the evil Axis. How did you get Germany?

Then when we are tired of academic banter, the teens catch their breath, readying themselves for the next argument about the NFL Draft, because a night doesn’t go by in April without analyzing every move made by our favorite Packers, Falcons, Broncos and Chiefs this year and for the last ten years.

Because that’s fun at dinner too.

The Puberty Excuse

Please note: The nine year old, no matter what he says, is a master chore-avoider. But yes, teenage brothers can be disappointing.

His big brother is being a jerk, so he storms up the beach and sits in the chair next to mine with his arms crossed in anger. “He is such a teenager!”

“That’s no excuse to be mean,” I say, as witness.

“I know! If he doesn’t want to play basketball, he says he’s too tired, because he’s in puberty,” a good mimic. “When he doesn’t want to play football with us, he uses the puberty excuse again.”

As if “the puberty excuse” is a real term everyone uses.

“When you make us switch the laundry, we fold everything wondering where he is, calling his name, and he doesn’t come help. All he has to do is load the dirty stuff, but noooooo. And when we’re all done, we find him watching some dumb YouTube video in his room, and he looks up and says, ‘I can’t help it. I’m in puberty.’”

The nine year old marches off, still ranting, “It drives me crazy.”