January 27, 2020
When did I become the mother of a ten-year-old who says, “I’m hungry AF, mom” ?
“Don’t say AF. That will go in the swear jar.” I say with absolute zero judgement.
With a smile on his face, he buckles his seatbelt.
“Well, I’m hungry.”
“I’ve got almonds – salt and vinegar.”
“Okay. What do they taste like?”
“Ummm . . . almonds with salt and vinegar . . .” I chuckle as I reach back to hand him the small round tin.
He’s upbeat and energetic today, which is unusual when I pick him up from school. In the car rider line, I watched him horsing around on the sidewalk, walking circles around his friend, slapping the brick column and laughing. The kind of laugh that’s a cross between a belly laugh and stitches in your sides.
My kid is that kid who doesn’t like school. He’s the kind of kid who vehemently and loudly told his teacher last week that he hates this place and can’t wait to get out. Like a caged animal. On that note, I’m not so sure his teachers really like being caged in with him, either.
He’s imaginative, athletic, rambunctious, full of creativity AND out-spoken, loud, easily-frustrated, opinionated. All those middle-school-ready emotions shooting out lightning bolts of impulsivity. I am the parent who nervously clicks on teacher emails. When I see the notifications, I can feel my shoulders tighten and my face cringe.
He speaks his mind too often and somewhat aggressively. As a teacher, I can freely admit – speaking your mind is not a trait that is appreciated in most classrooms. My youngest hates testing and thinks it’s pointless. . . . and I tend to agree with him. Both my boys just don’t fit in with the system. I’m starting to realize I don’t either.
It’s funny that we are coming to this understanding at vastly different points in our lives.
I scuttle out of the parking lot, scoot past the cone that attempts to stop me from turning left, and head on my way. I’m breaking all kinds of parking lot rules these days. I keep Noah talking, hoping he didn’t notice.
Another thirty minutes, and I’ve got my 13-year-old in the car.
“Mom, remember that time dad said, ‘don’t spam your girlfriend.’ I’m not sure what he meant. Girls like that.”
“Some girls, Siah. Not all of them.”
“Well, mine does.”
“I think as long as you’re not stalking her, you’re good.”
“Mom, I’m not a stalker. She stalks me. Like when I’m out at car riders, she looks out the window of her classroom at me the whole time.”
He totally eats this up. He says he’s in love, and I believe him. Love is an ageless kind of thing. We can all remember the devastation of that first heartbreak. The budding new feeling of that first crush.
“Yeah. That’s cute. That’s not stalkerish. If a girl starts killing your pets, then, you have to worry.”
I can’t believe the things that come out of my mouth sometimes. Maybe, I’m the reason my kids just speak their minds. No filter. All honesty. We launch into a long conversation, mostly one-sided, in which Josiah tells me all about this show on Netflix called You. Which is all about stalkers.
I’m like . . .
“You shouldn’t watch that.”
Thinking, I have parental restrictions on their devices. How is he watching that?
While he is diatribing about the fact that the serial killer only kills bad guys, so it’s okay in the end.
Is this normal? Do all 13-year-olds think this? Did I think this when I was 13?
The conversation drifts to our first kisses.
“Mom, when was your first kiss?”
“I was 14 in ninth grade.”
“What!!!” They say, simultaneously.
“Mom, that’s sad. Were you allowed at your boyfriend’s house?”
“Yes,” I say. “With adult supervision.”
“That’s lame. What did you guys do?”
“We ate with his family, watched T.V., hung out.”
The conversation continues . . .
These afternoons with my boys, I love. The moody car rides. The silent ones with all three of us absorbed in our own worlds. Thoughts that none of us want to share – those car rides tend to happen more often. These conversations are the rare gems. The times when I can listen without judgement. Believe my kid when he says he’s in love. Times when I can treat them like they are their own individuals and not the toddlers I once had to follow around, so they wouldn’t stick a quarter up their nose or hit each other in the head with lego blocks or eat erasers and other non-digestible delicacies.
I am thankful for our laughter and the back and forth, for the brief moments I get to engage with them before we get home . . .
. . . where Noah drops his backpack and jets out the front, slamming the door on his way to ask his best friend next door to play backyard soccer . . .
. . . where Josiah heads to his room to text and talk and laugh with friends on the phone.
It used to be exhausted mommy, making dinner and packing lunches, dishes piled up in the sink as kids ran amuck, strewing toys and crayons and baby powder throughout the house.
Now, it’s getting used to the gaps of time without them . . . the silence that grows with independence. It’s getting used to navigating the ever-changing balance between suffocating them and holding them too loosely.
So . . . when my ten-year-old gets in the car and says, “Mom, I’m hungry AF.”
My face doesn’t turn all shades of red. I don’t lecture about abbreviations and intentions and blah, blah, blah. I give him room to breath. I listen, and, in the listening, I hear who my boys are becoming, where they are headed, and who they wish to be.