There is female dialogue for 16. Parties, glitz and glamour although anyone who has known a 16-year-old girl will attest that sweet is an oxymoron. The age is a struggle for independence, acceptance and poorly applied makeup. What about boys? I’ve recently read some beautiful essays about ages and what they represent and I’ve decided to explore feelings about my son growing up and moving on.
We’ve gone from wide-eyed orbs casting a happy glow to grunts and an occasional smirk. I still see him dipping French fries in pools of ketchup with his friends at his side. He was always jumping, leaping, grabbing for something he thought was too far but not far enough for limbs on springs. The world was intoxicating and waiting for his introspection. His physical abilities were complimented by an imagination caught on fire by words. This was a child who wanted to speak and created his own vocabulary, until the cognitive abilities kicked in. He named items based on function, a ball was called “go-go” thrilling him with how it traveled unfettered and sometimes unstoppable. I remember laughter, starting as young as several months when he watched his sister run around the house, pure joy at the notion of being fluid and free. Every adventure from pogo sticks, riding bikes to drawing with chalk was embraced with gusto. Blowing bubbles on a sunny afternoon, adopting a dog, rescuing a kitten – his eyes danced with freedom and joy.
Until his mind caught up with his body, he was free to dream and roadblocks were nonexistent. As school became more like school, there were flickers of self-doubt, usually dampened by achievement, but still lingered in the air. At times, spears of his peers would reignite doubt, leaving flying embers. Yet, success and praise were his elixir. Art, writing, thinking, learning quickly and the ability to sit and concentrate made him an endeared student. He discovered books and characters and learned about the power of escape. Grade school innocence swooned in my head and clouded my vision for the tsunami ahead.
The first two years of middle school brought the calm before the storm. The smile was still there, going in a boy and leaving for high school not quite a child or a man. Hormones lurked in the shadows, snipers, ready to attack. He met disappointment and injustice head on, little pieces of his innocence chipped away. His smile eclipsed, tucked inside for occasional appearances, replaced by reluctance, doubt and fear frosted with sarcasm. I could see the boy inside, trapped by influences I could neither control nor stop. The world was moving, forging ahead and I want those orbs to look at me again and smile. I wait. Sixteen is a swooping comet of happiness, acceptance, irreverence, doubt, fear, honesty and rage. I’m no longer infallible and he’s found out I never was. This time 16 is slipping away, leaving me with every step from learning to drive, taking the SAT, girls and college ahead. Sixteen doesn’t have time for me. I tell myself he shouldn’t have time for me. I capitulate and hope to see his mouth move in upward sweeps to greet me.
He once told me, “Mommy if you die, I would cry but I can’t cry forever.” There was wisdom at three, the sense to know that life would roll along and picking up the pieces would be necessary for survival. I loved being his epicenter, he would wait for me, when I went out, telling his grandfather that he needed to sit by the window and watch for me. He would worry about me when I was out shopping, while I grabbed moments of solitude and freedom. We have switched places. I worry now, wondering how I can stave off the darkness he will encounter knowing full well he will “go-go” no matter what I do and he’s already on his way.