Let’s see….where to begin. Have I ever mentioned that my 12-year old son is a solid B student, gifted athlete, handsome devil, but living schizophrenically in two worlds? Not only that, he can pull you over to the dark side in just one sentence. Conversing with him is like being adrift on Lake Michigan in a cardboard box and no sail. If you sit perfectly still, the best you can hope for is calm seas. Try and lean one way or another to affect the direction and you might as well call it a day.
While I usually know right where I stand with regard to any of my three daughters, (“My hair is fine. Go away.”) with my son it’s a bit trickier to discern exactly what he needs from me at any given moment. See, he’s twelve and seems to have a foothold in both boyhood and adolescence. One minute he’s gooning around in his annoying sing-song voice, happy and carefree. Then, the phone rings. I answer it and tell him it’s for him. He takes the receiver. The sound that comes out when he says hello alerts me to the fact that he’s hiding some kind of sound-activated bass device in his sweatshirt. Mono-syllables squeeze forth in a forced baritone:
“Yeah. What’s up….Yeah. Yeah. Wait. I’ll ask. Mom. Can I go to DJ’s? Yeah. See ‘ya.”
Then, the phone call is over. Click.
“Wah-wah-wah, aaaaaahhhh-puuuukowie-neener!!” he yells, scooting along the kitchen floor in his oversized tennis-shoe slippers, chasing the dog out of the kitchen.
See what I mean? My little goofball one second, someone’s knight-in-shining-pre-pubescent-armor the next.
The troubling part is that he seems completely fine with his dual-personality. It’s me that is left scratching my head one second and on the verge of a psychotic break the next. Like the other night when I went into his room to tell him goodnight. I found him standing in the middle of the room looking around at nothing in particular. This is normal. That he was also wearing the underarmor he’d had on during his basketball game a few hours earlier struck me as odd.
“Are you going to sleep in the shirt you had on under your basketball uniform?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he said with that half-grin that told me he at least saw the door I was opening – whether he would choose to walk through it was another matter.
“Sheesh, Jay, how can you sleep in a shirt you just played a game in? You might get away with it now, but you won’t get away with it when you start to smell…” my voice trailing off to that mumblespeak that always serves as an introduction to the topic of puberty. He really perked up at that point.
“Well, do I smell? I’ve been wondering. I don’t know what it smells like,” he said in his man-child baritone. He also seemed….eager.
Now it was I who stood in the middle of the room, staring at nothing in particular. I was at a crossroads – a body odor fork in the road. Now what? I wondered. In an instant, I did what any caring mom would do. I lifted my arm.
“Here. Take a whiff,” I said. I knew there was only one way to paint this picture for him.
“Well, can you smell me first?” he asked. I said sure. I knew I’d smell a whole lot of nothing, but I played along.
“Nope, I don’t smell a thing really. Now you try it,” I said, offering up the Mother of all pits.
“Ewwww!!!! I gotta go poooootttttty…” my son squealed, flapping his arms from side to side with elbows pinned to his torso, flying out of the room and down the hall.
Just when they think they’re all grown up, they remind you there’s still a little time left.