January 30, 2020
We are at dinner. A dinner I threw together with frozen hashbrowns, eggs, spinach, and the baked-in flavor of a cast-iron skillet. Josiah’s seat is vacant.
“Josiah!” I yell from the table. “Dinner!”
His muffled new man-voice booms from the bathroom down the hall.
“I’m using the bathroom!”
Does every adolescent boy take four, forty-minute showers a day? Noah is painting his frittata with a double-thick layer of Frank’s Redhot.
“What is this, mom?” Genuinely curious.“It’s eggs and spinach. A frittata.”
“Sounds good!” He is overly excited about a really cheap, thrown-together dinner. I’m speechless.
“You know I was really worried about Josiah this morning.” He’s speaking in between mouthfuls.
He tries to slide part of Keith’s hashbrown off his plate. Keith responds with a withering death-stare. Noah is unsuccessful.
“Well, when I saw him getting into his friend’s car.”
“WHAT?” My voice automatically raises two octaves. “What friend. What?”
I look over at Keith.
“He knows better. What was he thinking? He could have been gone for eight hours. We wouldn’t have seen him in car riders, and they would have had him all day. Could have driven him anywhere by then!”
I am frantic. I’ve panicked my mom, who looks up from an almost empty plate.
I recite my anxious meanderings again and conclude with:
“That really scares me.”
“That scare me, too!” My mom has a lost look on her face, probably the same one I have.
As always, I text Ryan, his dad. Same questions: Who’s dad? Why didn’t he get on the bus?
After the table is cleared, except for Josiah’s spongy, cold slice of frittata and hashbrowns, he finally enters the dining room. His head hangs towards the floor, shoulders bowed, eyes focused on his screen instead of me. I am at my seat, seething but attempting to maintain a calm facade.
I tell him.
“You NEVER get in a car with anyone unless you have permission from us.”
“Siah, I need you to look at me . . .”
“Mom! Dad’s texting me right now!!!”
Ryan and I text. “What did you say?”
“I told him no.”
We tag-team him and hope it works.
All the dangers of adolescence pile up in my brain like an avalanche of worry. I thought stranger danger was one of those past ones. Check mark. Done. Off the list. I taught my kids that one. Now, I can move on. What I’m learning with adolescents? You don’t really move on. You revisit, constantly. Then, new obstacles are thrown at you. You have to learn how to duck and dart and divert.
The teenage years are a mystery to every parent. Teenagers are a mystery to themselves. Hormones, body changes, evolving and devolving relationships. They think they’re mature. We know they are growing and changing but not yet adult material. I sigh. I’m not sure we got through to him.
Ryan texts me:
“I’m not ready for him to grow up.”
I text back: