When I found out I was having a boy, it took me a while to get used to the idea. I've already written about being a high school teacher, and keeping my male students a bit at arm's length, at least when I was a young and single. But because of those very same high school boys, I didn't just picture mothering a BABY boy; I pictured mothering a TEENAGE boy, with all of his tender, tough, confident, needy awkwardness.
My mother seemed to get a huge kick out of parenting teens and I expected the same to be true in my own mothering. "Of course I loved you all when you were babies, Anna, but I liked it so much more when you became real people!" she said. Sounds weird, but I got what she meant. Each year that passes a mother gets to see her child grow into the person he is meant to be, and she learns to relate to him in a new way.
A note I found tucked in her jewelry box after she died says a lot about the kind of relationships she fostered with her 3 teenagers, even though it deals specifically with my older brother.
It was scrawled on an index card and had been left beside the yellow wall phone in the kitchen by my brother one Friday night:
Mom, If a girl calls, and it's Sally, tell her I'll be at Steve's party. Do not, I repeat DO NOT ask, "Is this Sally?" Let her tell you who it is. I don't want to scare any new ones away. Love, John
Mom got a kick out of my brother, my sister, and me even when, or maybe especially when, we were teenagers. I felt it and I knew it.
Jack should be entering high school in a few weeks.
Yep. High school.
Our relationship, built on love, respect and trust, would be entering a new phase if he were still with us, a phase of increased freedom and responsibility, a phase that we'd have to figure out as we went along. I had a great model in my mother about how to parent a teenage boy, and I was really looking forward to it, despite the challenges I know it represents.
Tonight we got back from a week at a vacation house and two of our family members were 14 and 15 year old boys. I loved talking to them, joking with them, being with them. But it was hard. Seeing how they went from surly and disconnected to loving and cuddly in a millisecond and then cycling back again. Eating everything that wasn't nailed down. Flexing muscles that weren't there two years ago. Having real conversations about things that matter. Hugging their moms whom they'd already passed in height.
I'm having a really hard time not knowing what Jack would look like, what new things we would be talking about, and what issues we would be dealing with, if he were still with us physically today.
And it is crushing me that I'll never receive a note (text, whatever) like the one my brother left my mom that ordinary night almost 30 years ago.
Because you only leave a note like that if you're close to your mom and she really "gets" you.
So tonight is a double whammy as I miss having a mother who "got us" and miss the chance to mother my teenage son.