- Posted August 30, 2013 by
Huntersville, North Carolina
This iReport is part of an assignment:
The written word: Your personal essays
Just a Few More Uncomfortable Minutes
As you grew into an older boy and young teen, we remained close. You had no shortage of words to describe adventures of the day, like how many bumpy-skinned toads you had found from thrusting your hand into a muddy hole in the side-yard, or how many blackberries you had picked after fighting the angry vines. You were anxious to share who you had spent your day with, your dreams of being an artist, your worries and hopes, as I listened ,half-heartedly, focusing more on the recipe I was making that day than the details of what you had to say. You were so full of words and almost bursting to share them, and, sadly, I was often tired of hearing them. " I took these stories for granted" I now realize, as I sit beside you in the car with only the sounds of the engine and the radio playing some lost '80's hit. The air inside the car is heavy, making it hard to breath, and the awkwardness between us palpable, as I search my head for something we can converse about. Nowadays it seems whatever topic I bring up, I do it awkwardly, or you take it the wrong way. Even as a young teen you shared with me, and we talked about everything, even sex and drugs. I felt I was doing my job as a parent and even gloated a bit thinking of my straight 'A', musical, artistically talented, athletic, handsome, confident and glorious son. " This is as it should be", I thought. " What's so hard about raising a teenager?" Just talk openly with them, give them clear rules and consequences, keep them busy, be a parent and not a friend…but more of a friend than my own parents were with their "Because I said so" responses and absence of heart to heart talks. "When I have kids, I will do it differently", I often thought. In many ways I have done it differently, but this silence between us feels all too familiar as I recall the rare occasion of being alone with my own mother at 17.
So what happened between age 15 and now? Well, you grew up. You became the self-reliant and independent person your father and I have always raised you to be, and you look to your friends and to yourself for answers, not your mother. Sure, every once in a while you still let me in, but only briefly. Too much intensity and you get embarrassed and shut down. Sometimes it's hard to see that you are almost a grown man , because I'm too busy pointing out the smelly gym clothes on the floor, the water ring on your bedside table, the chips on the couch where you are not supposed to eat them, the forgotten homework, the tardiness to school, the ubiquitous bad choices. I even wonder at times if you make ANY good decisions! But these things I nag you about do not matter. When I step back, I see an empathetic, strong, and self-reliant young man. You have outgrown me and my advice. I am nothing but a nag now, and you are ready to tackle the world on your own. Your father has pointed out to me that "boys need to separate from their mothers more than girls do", and, presently, I am painfully aware of that as we pull into the doctor's office parking lot and let out a sigh of relief at not being stuck in the Jetta together any longer. I hope you make good choices, but I know you frequently won't. I hope you learn and grow, and mostly, that you are happy. The imaginary storylines we might weave nowadays would read something more like this: "Once upon a time there was a blonde-haired (that needs to be cut) young man with long, lanky, and also hairy legs. He woke up one morning in a college dorm room, lying in a standard issue, too small bed, with a cell phone beside him. He answers the phone, speaking to his friend "Sup, man?" I am not a part of this conversation nor the many other conversations and memories he will make with friends. My son doesn't always use his brilliant brain to its capacity, nor is he bursting with confidence like he was as a boy. Although that magical laugh is still there, it is usually reserved for friends. For a while, I am shut out of his world.
I am proud of you, and excited for you, my son. But I miss the made up stories. I know the narrative we have shared for so many years is not forgotten, and that you will still need me to be your parent at times along your journey, but right now I feel I have taught you all I can for this stage in your life. There exists a shared beginning to your story where I was an integral part, but, for a while, it is only YOUR story and I do not have any input. So I will prompt you one last time. "Now you go." I hope there is a happy ending to this grown up story, and that one day, you will again look to me to add in some ideas of my own and shape it into a shared story again.