Approaching a teenage boy is a lot like capturing a wild animal.
You can’t make any fast movements, don’t dare back them into a corner and be sure to bring food.
My teenager has gone from a chubby cherub to a man-child overnight. Since football ended and wrestling started at the end of November, he’s lost fifteen pounds and acquired patches of facial hair now removed by the buzz of a razor. We don’t know if a baritone or a squeak is going to emerge when he shouts at his X-box buddies.
As the mom of a sweet, easy-going girl, I’m in unchartered territory. We breezed through Tanna’s teenage years with barely a scratch and only one missed curfew.
That said, Dane and I have an excellent relationship. There are times that he still lets me see the glimmer of the early days before girls, sports, and rap music arrived on the scene.
Like this past Saturday. He was in desperate need of a haircut, and I needed some Dane-Mama time. The haircut usually falls into dad’s list of duties, but since my friend who cuts their hair was out of town, I took Dane to the friend who cuts mine.
We made light chit-chat during the drive, and I even got brave enough to ask if I could tag along on the community service at a tree farm that his wrestling team was doing the next day. His silence said everything and I let him off the hook with an “It’s okay, bud. I don’t need to go.”
His face was kind, but his words were earnest, “I don’t want to be mean, Mom. But it should be just me and dad. Nobody else’s mom will be there, and if they are, they won’t be in coveralls carrying a chainsaw like you will.”
Apparently, I’ve embarrassed him before.
It was quiet again until he asked where Carrie’s shop was. When I told him that it was near the downtown, he got excited and asked if we could “get a coffee” after the haircut.
For a fleeting moment, I saw a little guy with dancing hazel-brown eyes, buckled up in a car seat. It reminded me of a time when he was four and I had asked him what the daycare had served for snacks that day.
Matter of fact, his little voice said, “A piece of pie and a cup ‘o Joe.”
To this day, I don’t know where he picked up the expression. It was one of those phrases that I committed to memory and wrote into my journal as soon as we got home. This haircutting trip was turning into a “moment”, and I felt an opportunity presenting itself as a gift.
“Sure dude. There’s a cafe’ right next to the shop. Maybe they have pie, too.”
After Carrie cut his hair and gave him a straight-edge shave, we walked next door.
Since Dane didn’t have to make weight for wrestling until next week, we bonded over pancakes and bacon. He devoured breakfast with the gusto typically demonstrated by our always-starving rat terrier.
Silently, I reminded myself of the wild animal reference and avoided any sudden movements. Somehow, I never once backed him into a corner and was able to coax him out from under his man/boy armor with the offering of sugar. At first he talked animatedly about the close shave Carrie gave as well as how much hair fuzz was laying on the floor. Then, between inhaled bites of bacon, he hunkered in for a real conversation.
He gave me insights into his new semester classes; his goal to finish the year on the high honor roll as well as his date plans should he ever want to take a girl out. Not that he’s interested in anybody. Sheesh Mom! It took every ounce of reserve not to pepper him with questions, and I let the conversation go where it was meant to.
I was quiet, engaged and completely unaware that the place was full of patrons. We had a private spot at the breakfast counter, and I had a front row seat as I watched this boy grow up right before my eyes.
Every so often, I pulled out my phone and took pictures. He saw what I was doing and asked, “You’re going to write about this aren’t you?”
I just grinned and snapped him drowning the pancakes in syrup.
“How do you know that?”
“I just know “that look,” mom. You had it the day I started high school, and then you wrote about it later.”
My sage, old soul.
It’s the look Tanna saw on her graduation day, and it’ll be the same for his graduation. The identical expression he’ll see when he waves good-bye from his new dorm room and then again when he brings home the beautiful woman who steals his heart.
Wow. Forgive the mist in my eyes. This circle of life sneaks up on me and sometimes bites me right from the keyboard – like a wild animal.
I think I need a piece of pie.