My teenaged son does a lot for me. Most of what he does amazes me and fills my heart to bursting. I look at him, rather up to his 5’11” frame, and wonder how I ever truly managed motherhood before this nearly 15 year old boy came into my life ten years ago. He’s the kind of son every mother wishes for as she holds her growing belly and rubs her fingers along the newly assembled crib, wondering whose eyes he’ll have. He’s kind, unselfish, intelligent and handsome. He instinctively does the right thing and puts the needs of others before his own. I’m often told what a good kid I have and as much as my ego would like to take credit for his behavior, I can’t. He is his very own person and chooses to be who he is. He holds my door, loads my bicycle onto the rack and has an arm full of grocery bags before my seatbelt is even unbuckled. Whether it’s a slow-roasted turkey dinner, a loaded lasagna swimming in homemade sauce or a hastily slapped-together peanut butter and jam sandwich, he’s grateful and never fails to make me feel appreciated. I’ve watched him grow from a chubby, lisping five year old little boy to an articulate, handsome young man in what feels like three long blinks.
He does indeed amaze me.
He also confounds me and sends me into a deep, frustrating state of confusion, not being able to make sense of much. I’m often left standing in the middle of the room, a roll of paper towels in one hand and a spray bottle of Mr. Clean in the other, or just as often, a tube of Neosporin, thinking to myself “What would possibly possess somebody to even attempt that?” In the same amount of time it takes me to fold three hand towels into a neat stack, his body can travel from one end of the hallway to the other, while accidentally tearing down our wedding picture, sending an entire stand of house plants crashing to floor and ripping off his left big toenail in the process. I immediately begin struggling between two inner dialogues, one of which is squawking “Just walk down the hallway you lumbering oaf!” and the other is calmly telling him to sit and elevate the injured body part so I can stop the blood spurt, all the while calculating how much money I would have saved in rental fees had I just bought my own Rug Doctor machine ten years ago. He bumps into stationary walls, as opposed to shifting walls, bruising his long, lanky body and quietly curses the wall for protruding itself into his path so suddenly. Or another common occurrence around here is something I’ve aptly named Distracted Walking, and although distracted walking and distracted driving are totally separate crimes due to the complex nature of driving, you’d be flabbergasted how difficult my teenaged son can make walking appear to be. I’ve watched him walk down a set of stairs with his Kindle not two inches from his face. It was at that moment I sent a little prayer to the gods of zit cream and deodorant spray to just let me get him to age 18, alive and with most of his appendages intact. That’s all I ask.
Although a solid 90% of his blundering misfortune can be easily contributed to a rapidly growing teenaged body and a total lack of spatial awareness, there are moments when I know, with absolute certainty, that his brain is shrinking at the same rapid rate the rest of his body is growing bigger. There is no other rational explanation for possessing the courage to stick a butter knife into a heating toaster because you want to reposition your slice of bread for maximum surface toasting. And as much as I admire and encourage self-led exploration and discovery of the world around you, I’ll never appreciate his reasoning behind removing the cover of the plugged-in, running Xbox game console and poking around inside with a metal screwdriver. I’m pretty sure my head doubled as Linda Blair’s that day. I can’t say for certain because we were in his bedroom and it’s already a questionable environment, but there may or may not have been green pea soup puked on his wall from my fit of rage.
Why, just last week, that boy managed to set my microwave on fire. And just as I came flying around the corner to locate the smell of burning plastic, I found him tossing an entire loaf of bread up and down, furiously blowing on it to extinguish the fire that had caught on the bag. I took a minute and calmly clarified how one would go about defrosting two slices of bread in the future. Except I used choice words for twenty minutes and wasn’t calm at all.
And then he unloaded the dishwasher without breaking any of my glass bowls and played Legos with his six year old brother for the afternoon.
And if you were wondering, he has my eyes.