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!”

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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?”

When I Imagined Life as a Grown-Up

When I was a teenager, I pictured myself as a war correspondent, or a world traveler doing research for National Geographic, or if my best friend got to be the first woman President, then maybe ambassador to Ireland or Secretary of State. Whatever I was going to do, adulthood looked exciting and glamorous.

I certainly did not picture myself alone in my car, parked outside of a local late night hangout, waiting in the dark for my thirteen-year-old son’s Mary Poppins’ cast party to end.

The party, orchestrated by the fifteen-year-old girls in the play, was at the Village Inn, where you can get French fries, mac-n-cheese, or chocolate chip pancakes at any time of day. Its parking lot at night – somewhat quiet, only slightly sketchy.

As I tried to stay awake. watching the rare coming and going – two old men in polo shirts, tattooed twenty-somethings holding hands, three baggy-jeaned teens looking to stay out of trouble (I hoped) – I suddenly saw a more realistic view of my life as my son passes through the pre-driving-but-starting-to-be-social years.

“Mom, can I go to the football game tonight?”

“There’s a party at my friend’s house tonight.”

“Mom, all my friends are going to see the new Star Wars movie tonight.”

“I can’t wait for the dance tonight!”

Many more late nights in parking lots waiting as his life begins to look like a big adventure. And I was so proud and excited for him.

When I was at my first cast party, I couldn’t have known that that feeling would be better than the glamorous life I imagined.

The Not So Invisible Mom

My teenager needed his black dress pants dry cleaned before playing Mr. Banks in Mary Poppins this week. So after dropping him off at Drama Camp, then driving his brothers to morning swim practice, I raced back to our neighborhood dry cleaner, picked up the pants, and drove them back to Drama Camp.

There were kids in the hallway working on a dance routine, but he was not with them. So I quietly opened the heavy door to the auditorium, and he headed up the stairs from the stage.

“Thanks.”

“How’s it going?” I whispered.

“Fine.” By then we were in the small vestibule between auditorium and hallway, separated from his fellow thespians on both sides.

“You go first,” he said.

“What?”

“You go first,” he waved me toward the door, sheepishly grinning. “I don’t want anyone to know you’re my mom.”

So of course I stepped out of the vestibule, counted exactly five seconds after the door closed, and watched him come through the door at exactly five. Then, as he registered that I was still there, I stuck my tongue out at him and trounced out the door.

He laughed. Not sure about the young chimney sweeps behind him.

The Great Eye-Roll Debate

“How many times has he rolled his eyes at you since he became a teenager?” my eight year old asked about his older brother.

It has been exactly ten days, and I estimated four to five eye-rolls a day.

“No way!” yelled the novice teen.

“Do you roll your eyes ten times a day?” Was I missing some of them?!

“Much, much less!” He pretended outrage.

“Let’s just say five then. That’s fifty since becoming a teenager.”

The teen and the eight year old simultaneously rolled their eyes. That little guy is starting early.

Seeing Myself in Him on His 13th Birthday

My oldest son celebrated his 13th birthday by inviting nine of his friends to watch and play football at our house yesterday. My basement still smells like boy sweat this morning.

His friends are sweet, funny kids who, as they grow in confidence and appreciate their own unique personalities, are increasingly having fun together. Big puppies with size 10 feet.

And watching my now teenage son with his friends, I saw my younger self.

During the party, he watched the Packers beat the Rams (24-10), sometimes the only one still cheering, as the other boys climbed over him, dressed in old Halloween costumes, and waged war from the laundry room back to the couch where he sat… smiling and utterly happy.

My freshman year in college, still wearing my shy high school persona, I decided that I would no longer wait for people to seek me out. I understood that being shy meant lost opportunities. And just downstairs from my apartment lived three guys who were smart, cool and hysterically funny. Their energy together drew in others so that their apartment was always the center of creativity and good times.

So every night, I gathered my courage, went downstairs and sat on their couch. I didn’t talk much. I just soaked it all in. I laughed a lot. I memorized the quotes they painted on their walls. I learned the words to their music (a lot of Squeeze and Talking Heads), and we eventually became good friends.

Yesterday brought that all back… “And She Was” singing in my head…

Thirty years later, my son, grinning on another couch in our smelly, loud basement, weaving cautiously, awkwardly in and out of the boys’ raucous play, but embraced by his friends and thrilled to be a part of such a wonderful moment in time.