When He Grows Up, He Will Be…

Yesterday, as our family walked through the airport, I realized something had changed. Our oldest, who usually moves a step slower than the rest of us, was walking ahead of his younger brothers and me. He wasn’t whispering to me at the back of the line “I’m tired” or “I hate airports.” I wasn’t whispering back, “keep up with Dad”, because….

…he was walking at a fast clip with Dad.

Father and son moved through the airport together, stride for stride, in lively conversation, making each other laugh. Two peas in a pod.

They share a goofy humor tinged occasionally with wit and old soul. They compete over technology purchases and know-how. Our son has adopted his father’s odd mix of political opinions, peppered with a splattering of mismatched ideas of his own.

Over the last fourteen years, I have often thought that they are happy with each other, so non-judgmental, because they are nothing alike. I was wrong. Watching their backs, their easy comfort in each other’s presence, I caught a glimpse of the adult he is becoming.

Like father, like son.

It’s Puberty, Mom

On Saturday night, my fourteen year old son was tugging gently at his hair when I peeked into his room to say goodnight, something he has done since infancy to soothe himself. It’s a sign that he is deep in thought, worried, chewing on something that happened that day or the day before.

I asked what was up.

“I’m socially awkward.”

On Friday, the last of his eighth grade class found out where they got into high school. Although he has known since Thanksgiving, it must have hit him suddenly that change is coming. I received two phone calls and an email from his teachers that day saying he was distracted, and could I please have him finish his assignments over the weekend.

… so the hair tugging on Saturday made sense.

“And no one thinks I’m funny.”

I held back a laugh. He is funny. Maybe just not 8th grade boy funny.

On Monday afternoon, I received a request from him for a free workout app. This from a kid who dreads exercise.

“What’s this?” I asked.

“I’m feeling self-conscious.”

I approved the download, and he did a workout before dinner, bragging about the number of squats and sit-ups he did. Then before bed, “Can you start waking me up early?”

“Really?”

“I want to work out, and I should shower before school. And can I try a fried egg for breakfast? I hear they’re really good for you.”

“I’m proud of you,” I hugged him.

“It’s puberty, mom. It sucks.”

Serious, Seriously?

On Monday, my son’s Spanish teacher emailed me to let me know that he was upset. He had forgotten about a quiz scheduled for that day, even though it was posted on her website and announced in class.

On Tuesday, he went to Freshman Registration Night at the high school he plans to attend next year. His schedule is going to be really tough. So while his teacher had recommended Spanish III, I suggested taking Spanish II, so he isn’t slammed from all sides.

Nope. “I should take Spanish III.”

“I don’t know,” I shook my head, imagining another four years of nagging and checking up on him.

“Mom, it’s time I took school seriously.”

Well, you can’t argue with that… until an hour later when I received a late-night, bail-out email from his Social Studies teacher, saying that he “probably knows this, and has yet to start… but please remind him to…”

“Aw man, I forgot!”

He didn’t even remember that it was his turn to bring snack today. How can you be a serious student when you can’t even remember snack?!

Slow Dancing in Middle School

Friday: 9:00 p.m. I walk into the middle school, 80s-themed dance to pick up my guys. My I-don’t-talk-to-girls seventh grader is hidden in a clump of other seventh graders wearing neon. I can’t see who he is dancing with, but one of the teacher-chaperones reports over the music that while he may not talk to girls, he does dance with them.

In a small crowd of eighth graders, I see mine slow dancing, his hands on her hips, her hands on his shoulders. Lots of sunshine between them (had they been dancing outside). Step. Step. Step. Eyes darting around the room. Barely talking even though they have been good friends since kindergarten.

As one of the girls supposedly reported to her mom later, what happened to those six weeks of Cotillion? Should I give my guys some direction, or enjoy their awkwardness for another year?

At least they were willing to talk after.

Post-Dance with the Seventh Grader

“Who did you dance with?”

“Can’t remember.” Then he listed three different girls. “But seriously, mom, middle school dances? I don’t think they should have them. A lot of kids aren’t ready.” He described a classmate who stood in the corner all night with his GoPro filming for his YouTube channel. “And a bunch of my friends didn’t even go.”

“But did you have fun?”

“It wasn’t bad.”

Post-Dance with the Eighth Grader

“The girls were dressed weird.” While the boys all chose their shabbiest, I-am-not-trying-to-impress-you clothes, the more spirited girls were in theme – 80s Footloose style.

“And the seventh graders slow dance wrong. It drove me crazy!” I barely stifled a guffaw. “You’re supposed to put your hands on their hips, not their shoulders.”

As I was saying, a little guidance before the graduation dance may be in order. A spin. A graceful twirl. A slow tango through the crowd.

Practicing Being “Cool” with the Grown-Ups

Apparently, our fourteen year old was chatting with a friend of mine. She had recently purchased a Wii and was asking what games he and his brothers play. The only better topics to get him going is “which Apple product do you recommend?” and “how about them Packers?””

He explained that he and his brothers mostly pay sports games, especially football. Madden 15. Madden 17. Madden anything. But then he told her about another game, one of the war games he likes.

“That’s the game that if I’m awake at two in the morning, I go down to the basement with a bowl of chips and a coke and play by myself.”

Now, I will admit he is a light sleeper. But this is a kid who never goes in the basement at night. He certainly doesn’t go down at 2 a.m. Alone.

And he’s never had a coke in his life.

Too cool.

Average People Need Hugs

I had already suffered through my dental cleaning and re-entered the house to find my teenage son on the couch where I had left him with one instruction: do the breakfast dishes.

They remained piled in the sink, syrup hardened onto plates, a rim of leftover coffee beginning to stain the bottom of a cup.

He looked up from his iPad, “Mom, did you know that smart people prefer to be alone?”

My random fact guy, but I assumed he was using this “fact” to explain why he had not invited a friend over today when offered the chance.

“But dumb people and just average people want to be around other people. Proof that you’re not that smart.” Big grin.

As if the dentist wasn’t bad enough. I also get to be the mom of a teenager.

Of course, later that same day, he approached me, arms open wide. “Mom, you look like you need a hug.”