My son is a teenager!
A few weekends ago we drove to Indianapolis so I could attend a bridal shower. Not wanting to miss any time with my husband and two sons, we all made the trek together. The weather was beautiful and another family with children the same age as ours also came along. The dads and kids had fun at a trampoline park while the moms ate, drank, laughed, and watched the bride-to-be open presents. Later in the evening we joined this family for dinner at a lovely restaurant. Despite having a reservation, we had to wait about 30 minutes for our table (the savvy manager comped us appetizers in apology). At first my 12-year-old son Evan sat with his younger brother and another 10-year-old friend, eyes glued to game screens. Within a few minutes, however, my husband pointed out that he had drifted over to the two 7th-grade girls with our group, laughing and talking. This banter continued throughout the weekend.
Evan’s behavior surprised me. He has always been rather shy, especially around girls his age. At the restaurant he was confidant, happy, and outgoing. What happened?
Puberty, that’s what. Evan has been experiencing dramatic physical and emotional growth in the last few months. His voice is deeper. He is so tall now we look each other in the eye. He meticulously washes his face to address the small signs of acne. He also combs his hair over his forehead, which frustrates me to no end. Why smush down that beautiful curly hair? Our conversations have changed in ways both subtle and important. It is hard to describe, but I often feel like I am talking to a young adult. He recently asked me, “Mama, is it hard to shave?”
I have mixed feelings about these changes. On the way hand, I am saddened. I remember his birth and first few years as if they occurred yesterday. He had curly auburn hair, big blue eyes, and lashes so long and lush women would drool at the sight of them. He was relentlessly curious. He pointed at everything and said, “Ha da?” which we knew meant “what’s that?” He was smart and so cute and good at everything. (Not much has changed in that regard.) He loved to cuddle.
But there are many aspects of Evan’s growing maturity that delight me. He is increasingly witty and funny. Our conversations involve more give and take, more negotiation and thoughtfulness. He is trying different types of foods so we can dine out with enjoyment. He is more patient with his brother and seems to find Isaac’s imitations flattering as opposed to irritating. We like the same games, though he always beats me. We are watching more TV shows together, including Modern Family, Survivor, and now Touch.
And I am curious to see how he will negotiate his teens, which will officially begin in May. I wonder if he will continue to love soccer as he has since he toddled across our backyard, kicking the ball? I wonder if he will want to keep his hair long and curly, or if he will cut it short. How tall will he be? Will he continue to excel in math and struggle in French? Will he have nerdy, sweet friends, as he does now, or start to hang out with jocks? Who will be his first love?
The joy of discovering my son year by year as he ages is spectacular. But sometimes when he does something stupid or thoughtless I wonder about my responsibility as a parent. When he was reprimanded for cursing at school, I guiltily recalled my own swearing at other drivers while the boys sat in the back seat, mouths agog. Did he learn to curse from me? But surely “car cursing” is different, right? That doesn’t count! Mostly I recognize that he is testing boundaries and negotiating a sense of his place in the world. He is figuring out who he wants to be. Apparently sometimes that is a sailor.
Welcome to puberty, Evan. I hope I survive it.