Here’s the sequence: food, sweetness, sass, hug, tears, sass, anger, arm around my shoulders, silence, grunt, excitement, wishing ill on others, competing for attention, curious, sass, not listening, sass, louder than necessary, wondering, making dumb jokes (“my butt is broken…it has a crack” UGH.), banging into things, happy, wants to sit on my lap, asking for water he can perfectly well get himself, non-responsive, laughing, sass, kissing my cheek, my arm, my hand; fury, putting his arms around my neck from the back seat of the car, hilariously funny, embarrassed, indecisive, tired, bored, wants to go home, can’t believe I’m making him do this, sass, impatience, sass, sleep, distracted, hyper, antsy, quiet, absorbed, sleep. Living with my bi polar mother was a roller coaster ride, and then I became the mother of a teen boy.
I am pretty sure my son never went through the Oedipal phase – at least not that I noticed – unless, of course, I played my part unconsciously. Now, however, when he is in the mood (i.e when I am not bringing him to tears or fury with embarrassment) he wants to walk down the street with his arm around my shoulder. I am perplexed. It’s true he is as tall, if not a bit taller than me, so the ergonomics work. It’s the emotionalnomics that seem sort of off. I am thrilled he has any inkling of affection he is willing to express, but am worrying over role confusion. Aren’t I still the parent-protector? Isn’t it my arm around him?
At dinner, my husband asks for beans and rice in Spanish, showing off his fourth grade proficiency at the Mexican restaurant. Literally tears. The boy is so embarrassed. His eyes well up across the table – full on drops rolling down the cheeks: “Please stop. I have asked you guys so many times to not do that. It’s embarrassing. Please.” It’s such an objectively minor infraction on the scale of 1 to murder, but to him it is so raw, so radically ouchy. Is it because the waitress is genuinely kind in putting up with our antics and offers that she can only answer in Hebrew which leads me to offer that Joseph could respond to her with Hebrew prayers? She asks if he has had his Bar Mitzvah. I blurt yes. She congratulates. Does he feel exposed? Is it because she is pretty? Exposed in front of pretty – that could be it – that can be painful for sure.
Especially because I see him look at girls now – it’s just a sideways glance, no full on eye lock. I want to tell all of them to put more clothes on right away. He never used to register their presence other than as someone to throw a ball to or run after in football. Now he seems to take them in as if glimpsing potential.
We hear a country music song on the radio where the father is cleaning his guns to prepare for his teenage daughter’s date. I jokingly say, “This is why you extend your hand and say ‘It’s nice to meet you, sir’ if/as you decide to take a girl out.” He smiles: “I know that. I would always.” He tells me a few months ago that when he has a girlfriend he’s going to take her to Fenway Park and say, “Let’s go see the Green Monster before we take our seats,” and then surprise her because their seats will actually be on the Green Monster. “Won’t that be so romantic, Mama?” Those two words together in a sentence catch my breath by surprise. Romantic and Mama?
Baby. Boy. Growing. Teen. Becoming. Man. The world opens and in he steps of his own accord. Wake. Eat. Play. Poop. Sleep. And just like when he was little and had a big morning “play date” – today’s was wake boarding on the sound – he falls asleep in the car on the way home.
© Gabriella Strecker, 2016