My Boy’s All Grown Up

So the boy is finally growing up.

A Brand New James Bond by S Marcu
A Brand New James Bond by S Marcu at http://www.flickr.com

He didn’t scrub up too badly for his Formal, once I wiped the Nutella off his chin and exchanged the safety pin earring for a diamante stud.

He was almost Beckham-esque in stature.

It hurt physically to shop and buy his formal outfit together. A nagging ache of loss. How quickly they seem to grow up, spend all your money and then disappear from your life.

God, I sound old.

Having said that, the hurt was quickly diffused by the inevitable bitching in the shop over how much I was willing to spend, his begrudging acceptance that a white Target $10 shirt does look the same as the Top Man equivalent and my resulting hyperventilation when he told me how much his date’s corsage was going to cost ME.

But the Year 10 formal is evidently a coming-of-age event for Australian teenagers and who am I to argue?

I can admit to being still a little peeved that the Traxedo that we ordered from the States, at huge expense, was dismissed as being ‘silly’ when he secured himself a date and surmised (discerningly) that she might not approve.

That ‘disempowerment’ that the old man accuses me of, obviously starts young.

I watched my boy as he stood there in the Target changing room in his hybrid (part Target, part posh shop) tuxedo, trying to imitate James Bond.

And for the first time, all I could see was his dad.

It might have been the impulsive buzz cut that he tortured me with last week when he suddenly decided to shave off his dreadlocks, (so he now looks as bald as his dad a coot), or it might have been because he inherited those tiny eagle eyes that the old man insists are from Royal Polish ancestry. (Although NC still insists that I must have slept with an Asian somewhere down the track). Funny, those eyes may be small but they can pick up every item of money I spend that appears on the bank statement.

But watching our son reminded me of our Formal together, all those years ago.

Because the old man and I were ‘an item’ for Year 11 and 12 – before we parted for five years to greener grasses and some experimental loving.

(For some reason the old man insists I spent those five years in a nunnery).

But nearly thirty years later, there I was, dressing our son in his first tuxedo, just like I dressed the old man all those years again. (And I still haven’t learnt how to tie a bow tie).

There’s that circle of life thing again – it fucking haunts you all the way.

Of course I threatened him with every punishment ever invented if he misbehaved at the Formal. (Kurt that is). We had the talk AGAIN about alcohol, drugs, consent, sex and rock n’roll and he rolled his eyes and looked at me like I obviously had no idea about what it was like to be young. I didn’t mention that the old man and I got caught climbing back into the window of our school at 5am after our Formal night and were promptly suspended.

Thoughts of him as a baby boy came to mind. He was impulsive even then, and couldn’t wait to get out there immediately to start living his life properly so that my sixteen years of worry could officially commence.

He exploded out of my exhausted body only twenty minutes after we arrived at the hospital and he was that super big it felt like I was pushing a whole tray of melons out, rather than a solitary one.

TBH, he was as fat as a Buddha, which was unfortunate. We try not to mention it.

He wasn’t an attractive baby like NC had been, (once that excessive body hair had fallen out), and I would cry inside when people popped their heads in the pram to take a peep and then say nothing.

But the Buddha weight shifted quickly with the hyperactivity and the medication – (although unfortunately that combination has yet to work for me).

He is now slim and chiseled, although still a misunderstood boy, who already thinks he is a man of the world. He knows everything, of course – that goes with the territory of being a teenager. In fact he has always been known as ‘Google’ in our house for that very reason, although to me he has always been my ‘Bunny’, much to his mortification.

He hates it if I call him Bunny now, especially in front of his friends.

He is a perfectionist with OCD tendencies when he is anxious, and everything has to be just so; whereas I am more last-minute and laissez-faire, and I know it drives him insane.

When I smudged a great big black stain on the collar of his formal shirt the night before the event, I thought he was going to metamorphose into the Incredible Hulk. ‘Manically incredulous’ might be a good description of his reaction to another example of my ineptitude to be the ‘perfect mother’ he craves.

When I suggested making a corsage for his date, he was horrified.

We spar now, more than ever, because he is becoming a man and needs to break the invisible umbilical chord that has held us together this long.

I understand that.

It upsets me how much he has struggled through the first sixteen years of his life with the limitations caused by his ADHD, that have caused friendship issues, struggles with his emotions and poor self-esteem.

I just want other people to ‘get him’ like I do. Surely I can’t be the only one who sees that hurt in his eyes when he realizes his mistakes.

I used to be able to make things right for him by wrapping him up tightly in a mummy cuddle, but he doesn’t let me now. In fact sometimes he flinches if I get too close, because he doesn’t know how to vent those emotional frustrations.

But it’s a new dawn and in a way I’m glad he can take it out on me rather than the wall like he used to, or with drugs. And when he pushes me away, I know that’s just part of him trying to find his way, an independence of sorts; for him that’s a little harder than for most.

Eventually he will mature fully and learn to recognize his own strengths and greatness.

I recognized them sixteen years ago.

The Teenage Transition From Boy To Man

Teenagers and the Transition from Boy to ManI’ve been demoted in my role as Mum by my teenage son now. Steve Biddulph warned me it would happen in his books, Raising Boys and The New Manhood, but I thought I would be the mother to prove him wrong.

Steve obviously knows what he’s talking about.

“Most men today live behind masks. They put them on in the morning and keep them on until they fall asleep at night, adopting the clichés of what they perceive a real man to be. The problem is, it’s all pretend.” (Steve Biddulph)

My son is creating his mask.

The rules have suddenly changed in our relationship. Where I was once a figure my son looked up to, his support, his role model, it feels as though I have become little more than a serf in his life these days, with about as much social standing as the servants in Downton Abbey. Actually less, because they are paid for their work.

My new status was made perfectly clear to me today when we went clothes shopping together in George Street. I had envisaged our trip as a potential bonding moment, but as I watched him plug in his earphones, I realised that I was little more than a cash enabler, and that communication would not be involved.

I traipsed behind him like Tiger Woods’ caddy, at least three metres behind at all times, while he sauntered off ahead and in control. Topman was full of weary mums like me, stalking outside the changing rooms, accepting this new place in their teenage boys’ lives, credit cards at the ready, newly aware that these last links are so tenuous and precious.

The only time he acquiesced to share the same square metre of space with me in public was when we met briefly at the paydesk. He did mumble a ‘thanks Mum’ as I handed over the dosh, but it was only coherent to those with either canine hearing or  desperately holding on to the last morsel of what might still be considered a relationship.

I get it. I remember being embarrassed to have to shop with my parents. I get it; I’m just not really ready for it yet.

I’m worried he won’t ever come back to me again. That once he’s mature enough to reconsider our tie, some evil girl will steal him from under my nose. I remember my brother retreating to his bedroom at the age of twelve and not reappearing until he was eighteen. The only time we saw him during those six years was during flying visits on Christmas Day to inhale twenty-four roast potatoes and bid goodbye for another twelve months.

My boy is creating his man-shed, part of his transition from boy to man. He needs to be mentally strong in this new man-world and he is busy creating the emotional tools to face the challenge, while I scramble around pathetically, trying desperately to retain our old relationship. The more I try to stop the building process, the more determinedly he hammers in the nails.

I used to consider myself a strong, opinionated woman, yet in the presence of my teenage son these days I feel like a piece of putty at the mercy of his manipulation. I am Edward Cullen, helpless in the path of the evil powers of his alter-ego Jane, from Twilight. He holds the emotional power and I am a sad and powerless pawn, and I while I recognise and detest this feeling of subservience, I am powerless to prevent it. It is the power of love.

I am emotionally strung out at being ousted from his life so mercilessly. I try to please him all the time, to appease him, and I can see the disdain on his face as I compromise my own strength. I don’t know whether to accept the painful transition, grieve and move on, or fight it. Whatever happened to that gorgeous blonde vision of innocent chubbiness who used to worship me and tell me he loved me ‘this much’?

My love for him has always been unconditional; I thought that his would be the same for me.

He tolerates me now. I am his cook, bank and a sounding board when things get too hard, but he knows and I know that I can’t be his friend or pretend to understand anything that is going on in his life.

‘You don’t understand, Mum,’ is the common accusation when I try to carry on parenting the way I used to, before the bumfluff and baritone voice signalled the change.

We have to let them go. Our boys have to make the transition from boy to man and I have to continue to support and nourish him during his transition, no matter how painful I find his rejection.

In the hope that he will come back to me when he is ready.