My pre-teen has become an eye-rolling ball of snark. I’m doing my best to be cool about it. Hitting puberty, much? Most of his responses have a “duh” undertone nowadays that delights in so many ways. If I didn’t have such healthy self-esteem, I’d worry I was the stupidest person in the world. Simple questions like “Do you have a ride home?” or “Did you bring a jacket” are met with an insolent “Of course! Why wouldn’t I?!” The other day his Xbox was taking a long time to download a game. I told him our router was overloaded and he said in his most accusatory voice, “Oh gee, thanks a lot Mom!” I suck.
He has an accent now too. This might be because he has about a pound of metal in his mouth from upper and lower braces and a built-in retainer. He has his own flavor of “ermahgerd,” I suppose. (Google this meme and you will see several iterations of a girl wearing a retainer holding Goosebumps books with various phonetic captions demonstrating her metal mouth speech, such as “Ermagerd! Gersberms! Ma Farvrit Berks! Translation: Oh my god! Goosebumps! My favorite books!”) But one of his affectations is non-metallic in origin. He does this thing where he swallows his Ts. For example, a normal person would say, “Martin” or “Spartan” or “water.” My son likes to say, “Mar-in” Spar-in” and “wa-er.” We don’t know why.
This may be payback for what I put my parents through when I was an adolescent. I was the sovereign of snark. I also wrote poems that no one could possibly understand then slap my palm to my head in disgust when my poor parents were “too out-of-touch” to get them. And I had an accent. To this day, my father signs off on his emails, “Love, Dald.” This is an effort to remind me of the “Oh ma gald!” valley girl accent I sported from age twelve to 17. Yes, I spewed extra Ls and “likes” and I will never, ever live it down. Geez, Dald! I’m like 42! Gald!
Because of my son’s sudden hormone-induced change in demeanor, we’ve been talking about the big P lately. When I “became a woman,” as my parents called it when I was growing up, my mother made me a special dinner. I ate my baked halibut and artichokes like a queen (with cramps).
What my mother experienced was quite different. In the early 60s it was all hush-hush and blush-blush. Back then, they had very romanticized packaging for feminine hygiene products. My mother recalls one that depicted a woman who looked like Scarlett O’Hara from Gone with the Wind. When she was little, she begged her mother for the product—its contents—a mystery. Her mother sharply shamed her, of course: “That’s not for little girls!” When her mother felt her daughter may soon bloom (which was two years premature), she took my mother on a walk past the dime stores and soda shops and told her about what was inside the box displaying the Scarlett O’Hara look-a-like. Her mother tried her best to explain the sanitary belt, napkins and their purpose. To that my mother probed, “So it happens just when you go to the bathroom?”
“No! All the time!”
My mother told me there was so much confusion about it that when her girlfriend said, “I have a secret to tell you…I know what a period is,” my mother responded, “That’s nothing…I know what menstruation is!” Even after they compared notes, they still had no idea that they were talking about the same thing.
When my mother’s “womanhood” appeared, she was at her Aunt Bonnie’s. It was her older cousin, not her mother, who gave her the tutorial. They thought that would be best… I think they were probably right.
Because of my mother’s kind celebration of my womanhood, I vowed I’d do the same for my girls. Two boys later with no girl in sight, I determined it wasn’t in my cards—partly because I couldn’t figure out the mark of manhood. I mean I could figure it out… if you think in terms of reproduction, the male pubescent equivalent to the female…. Ahem. Some things are better left silently celebrated. To reluctantly err on the side of sounding like a blast from the 60s, I needed a socially acceptable mark. And then I got one: My nephew sprouted a few hairs under his arms. While a few regarded this as a secret awkward thing, I saw a celebration. I started to talk it up. “Son, when this happens, how about dinner and a movie?”
He looked at me with horror and fascination. My eight-year-old laughed and laughed. Uh-oh. Was I being “that mom?” The one who thinks she’s being really cool but she’s actually totally out-of-touch?
Last week I took the guys in for their annual physicals. I typically do them back to back with the same pediatrician, which puts us in the same exam room at the same time. My eldest has never had a problem with me being in the room when he was required to drop trou. But this time, the doctor suggested I leave, which wasn’t necessary since I was already headed for the door with his giggling brother. When we were allowed back in, the doctor stepped out. The youngest asked his big brother, “So…do you get to have an armpit date with Mom?”
To that he blushed and sputtered, “SHU’ UP!”
I queried, “Do you–”
He stopped me and shouted, “Leave me alone!”
So I did. Later in the week, I asked if he thought dinner and a movie would be fun when the time comes, and he told me that he thought his little brother would most likely earn the date before him. Great. I was that mom. I forgot how agonizing it was to “earn” the special dinner. Let’s just say womanhood visited my girlfriends way sooner than it visited me. Hitting puberty is different for everyone.
So here we are. After all of that, we decided that we would have a date to celebrate his pre-pubescence. Possibly several dates… (Son: “Wha’? You wan’ uh PP date?! Don’ ‘ell anyone! ”) Or maybe one date… Cheers to staying a boy as long as you can!