When I first hear him speak I ask him if he has been yelling a lot because he sounds hoarse. I look under his arm when he’s not looking. I look at his legs. I am starting to put it together. Then he takes his shirt off to go swimming, and his little baby tub is a little less tubby; and there are hair whispies. He is a camp modified organism (CMO): a different body returned then was dropped off. Not hoarse, his voice is deeper. There’s no denying it.
Except that I can, because this is the craziest of all stages. We have passed through dinosaurs and whining. Laziness and bed wetting. Ticking and crying. But this? Three and a half weeks away, and his body is more foreign to me than it ever has been. He knows it better than I ever will again. It is more and more his and less and less ours; and certainly no longer mine. The deed is in transfer.
Others tell me he is gorgeous. It’s not that I don’t think so, it’s just that I have always thought so. I don’t notice the ripening of his looks into something seen. The perennial power of my maternal eye, to me he is only (and always) beautiful, glorious baby. His physical reality may not resemble my emotional one; his body may not reflect my infantilizing heart. As more and more he is his.
We go to the movies with his friend. The movie is so bad. The special effects budget alone could have changed so many lives, and I wallow at the waste. I am surprised to hear my own inner thirteen-year-old. She reminds me to protect my spot in the circle-of-coolness by saying none of that. So what if we could have turned a small nation around if we fed people with that money? She warns: don’t be different; love what they loved. It’s like his puberty brings back my brittle, little, frightened-of-desertion- adolescent-self. G*d willing: He is more certain he will always be kept, even as he learns to leave, as is his due.
Here’s what I learned at Camp this Summer: he likes to sleep on the ground. He excels in the outdoors and prefers carving knives to butter ones. He is most in his feet when he has been exposed to the elements, contained in the structure of a daily schedule defined by the sun, the moon, the weather. Some kids discover their passion early – sports, art, theater. Not him. He seems to be not so much about doing but about being. He is so different from me.
And this is the task of mothering through puberty. Resting my back into the chair, I try to leave space for him to fill in what he wants, while curving my body still within reach for when/if/as he touches back in. I sit on my hands to not grab on and hold tight, forcing him to be cradled in the arms of my love.
© Gabriella Strecker, 2016