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.”

Door Prize

My son taped a new sign to his bedroom door in a fit of rage against mom for saying that riding one’s scooter back and forth outside a neighbor’s house with a baseball ready to throw at him was “acting like a bully.”

“No Moms!” said the door.

When his rage cooled two days later, he dragged me down the hall to show me his change of heart. Smiling, he waved his hand at the door as if presenting me with a great prize.

rage-door-photo

At least it is a green sercole for now.

That Was Actually Funny, He Said

My teenager and I were sitting on the steps with the dog. It has been a dry winter, and with more than a week of warm February weather, everyone is watering. At our house, the sprinkler needed a quick fix in the yard after it fell off the hose when my son moved it from one spot to another. “I can’t get it back on.”

I was putting my shoes on to help out and hoping the dog poop had been picked up before he had watered the grass. ”If you don’t pick the poop up first, then it’s gross to pick up when the grass is wet.”

“It wasn’t me,” he said. “Dad started it. Blame Dad.”

So, I belted out a little South Park “Blame Canada!”

He chuckled. “Mom, that was actually funny… and surprising.”

“Didn’t think I had any South Park in me, did ya?”

The Hour Added To Date Nights

Every once in a while, our 8th grader will say, “You should go on a date night!”

So, you might think the boys actually like it when we leave. Freedom. Kraft Mac-n-cheese. Video games. But if it’s past 9:00, we get a text from the 7th grader, as if on cue. “When are you coming home?”

And no matter what time we return, they are all up, exploding with something to tell us, show us, read to us. And so 9:00 becomes 10:00. Or later.

When they were little, my favorite thing about date nights were that the babysitter had the kids asleep when we got home. I could tiptoe into their dimly lit rooms, kiss their warm foreheads goodnight, take a long look at their sweet faces, and go to bed. Five minutes from date to sleep. Tops. Now, I have to admit, I enjoy their need to share, as if we have been gone forever, and sleep will not come until they do.

Last night, we left for the theater at 6:00 and walked back in the house at 9:00. Perfect bedtime hour, but…

“Mom, do you want to see my Falcons’ Season in Review Youtube video? I’m not done yet, but…” So I watched ten minutes of Julio Jones beating his opponents in long touchdown runs to music.

“I’m impressed.”

“Did you see the clips with that weird reflection? I’m going to redo those. And the dark one?” Sigh, “I was hoping to get more done tonight.”

“Bedtime.”

“Mom, I started a new comic strip. Want to see it?” The third grader creates beautifully detailed illustrations, but his comic strip spelling requires pre-9:00 translation skills.

“Love it!”

He gives me a big hug. “I’m just gonna…”

“Nope. Bedtime.”

“Will you come say goodnight?”

And then the 8th grader sidles up to me, talking in a low, secretive whisper as if something is wrong. But… “You know how we’re not allowed to bring phones or iPads on the class trip? Well, I really want to finish The Book Thief. So I was thinking I could buy an iPod Shuffle.”

He spent his three hours of freedom coming up with the best way to get me to say yes to a new technology purchase. Not happening. “We have a copy of the book. You can bring that.”.

“The thing is, I don’t like to read books. They’re so… I don’t know… physical.”

“Go to bed.”

And that’s how a quick date night keeps everyone up too late.

 

Long Division

Dear third grader,

Long division is hard. Besides potty-training and reading, it might be the toughest challenge you have ever faced. It is especially awful when you imagine that Mom is doing it wrong.

Divide. Multiply. Carry down a zero. Subtract. Divide. Multiply. Carry down a zero. Subtract. Repeat until you hit a number smaller than your original divisor.

Because if you imagine that Mom is making stuff up, you’re going to invent a new way of doing division that gets you to the incorrect answer. And it is likely going to take you longer to get there. And then after all that effort and brain power and creativity that you just dedicated to dividing one number by another, you are going to freak out. Cry. Scream. Stomp your feet. Run out of the room.

“You think I’m stupid!” will be followed by “Then you think my teacher is stupid!”

And you will still have to come back later to finish your homework.

So while I will definitely slide off the “I know this” platform after a few more years of math, I promise I will admit it when the time comes. For now, though, stick with me. You will get this, because you are all about effort and brain power and creativity… and we make a great team.

Divide. Multiple. Carry down the zero. Subtract.

I love you, sweet man,

Mom

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.”

On His 14th Birthday

There are moments that might only be significant to a parent. Small achievements that are marked by us as special. That no one else notices or celebrates. Yet they make our hearts sing.

Most would call my oldest son an introvert. He spoke late to the concern of his pediatrician. But when he decided to talk, he spoke with what some remarked to be perfect annunciation. It turns out, he was just listening, biding his time to speak only when he had heard enough from the rest of us.

I was reminded of that on his fourteenth birthday. He had volunteered to do the reading at our school’s Blessing of the Animals, in honor of Francis of Assisi.

It was a gorgeous fall day. Crisp. Sunny. Just the tips of the aspens turned yellow. The lower school choir sang. The entire school body and many of their parents sat in clusters on the soccer field. Dogs sat or wagged or gloried in attention. Two ducks. A hedgehog. Hamsters. A turtle. At least one kitten.

Then my son – 12 years after we worried why he wasn’t talking – stood at the podium and read the psalm he had been assigned. He looked tall and serious and handsome. His voice rang out across the field above the hum of excited children and their pets, and quieted them. Clear. Confident. Each word spoken for its meaning. A voice that you want to listen to, that you instinctively expect to say something wonderful and wise. Beautiful.