Thursday, May 10, 2012

What Thirteen Looks like from Here

So this evening Jeremiah (22 years old now) and Joseph (17) were having a mock-argument that involved a half gallon of orange juice and a pair of head phones. It seems that Jeremiah borrowed Joe's head phones without asking and Joseph was holding his orange juice hostage until Jeremiah returned them.

I mentioned that this looked a whole lot like the days in which they both fought over Lego buildings. They chuckled, traded items, and began horsing around. Shoving at each other and calling each other poo-poo head and so on (ahh memories . . .).

Remember my dogs? Three of them (Story, Ruby, and Molly--note these are all of  the female gender) consider themselves in charge of all altercations and they rushed in to stop the horsing around, barking, shoving between boys, etc. I like to think of them as being like the female elephants in a herd--aka the Aunties. Always ready and willing to defend the weakest calf--they just aren't in agreement about who that is.

Again, I stopped the rough play and pointed out the problem with it. A) You're both better than six feet tall. B) You're going to break something and if you do, you'll be buying me a new one. C) A dog is going to decide that her favorite boy needs protecting and someone will get nipped. (This has never happened, but we've had a close call or two).

This put a damper on things for maybe thirty seconds. Still amped up and in high spirits, Joseph and Jeremiah turned their attention to Sam. For some stupid reason these two thought it would be funny to pin him down and tickle him. Sam is thirteen and no longer thinks that being pinned down and tickled is funny. Actually, he hasn't for a very long time. He hit Joseph, the first available attacker, who--not surprisingly--hit him back.

Before I knew what happened, Sam was on his feet and headed toward Joe with his fist in mid-swing. As he did so, several thoughts rushed to the forefront at the same time: A) I don't think Sam has hit any of his brothers since he was five B) When did he get taller than Joseph? C) Why did God send me four boys? I mean they're cute when they're sleeping and everything, but . . .

I stepped in between them, bellowed at them all to get a grip on themselves (ordered the convening "aunties" to their corners). Joseph, who has one of the best inner sprinkler systems I've ever seen, immediately stopped.  Sam, kept coming and for a second I thought he was going to hit me before he could stop himself. However, when he realized he was in danger of hurting his mother (and that his Dad would kill him if he did), he satisfied himself with uttering a curse word.

For a split second I was at a loss. My baby was using bad language and he was better than six foot tall. And he was clearly a thirteen year old boy who was out of control. What was I going to do?

Wait. I know this one. I've been here before. What did I do last time? 

Oh yeah. I didn't. Gary did. Okay. What would Gary do?  (WWGD)

I pointed at Sam. "You. Take a walk." He started to protest. "Out. Out now."

He stormed out the door into the darkness.

I chewed the other two out, reminding them of what it was like to be thirteen. And I pointed out to Joe that Sam was taller than he was and that he could not longer treat Sam like his was a little kid.

"Yeah. I sorta noticed that when he came at me," Joe said ruefully.

We decided to give Sam some time to cool off.

Just a few minutes after that though Daniel began bustling around, found Sam's shoes (he'd charged out the door barefoot), grabbed a flashlight and some snack food (cause food makes everything better?), took Story, and went out looking for him. Bless him, he was concerned.

Ten minutes later, Joe followed him and shortly after that, so did Jeremiah. A little later I could hear them coming up the road, voices rising and falling in conversation. The moon is waning, but it's still bright and the sky is clear. They apparently decided there was nothing pressing on their schedules and didn't rush back in. I can hear them outside now, laughing at Story as she tries to find a stick someone threw for her in the darkness. Good-natured teasing. Like nothing ever happened.

At some point in the last year, Sam joined the ranks of men. He is gangly, obviously quite tall for his age, and vacillates between being pleasant and moody. We are not cool enough for him ("Do you have to come with me?"  "How do you intend to get there without us?" Then can I pretend I came by myself?"). He wants to learn to drive, go to high school, graduate and get out. Everything in his conversation these days involves leaving us behind. And don't think this doesn't bother me.

Remember the little kid who built forts with pillows and blankets in my living room?  He's growing up (and he doesn't like to be reminded that he ever liked forts). I've been through thirteen before, I've just never been through Sam  turning thirteen before and I'm not sure I like it. It's not fair, you know? Just when you think you've got this parenting thing all figured out, they grow up.

No. It's not fair at all.


Scotty said...

Loved how an angry moment turned into laughs outside amongst the boys - makes ya feel good, don't it? And I wouldn't worry too much about losing them as they grow up; mine are 29, 27, and 20 and they still need me on occasions.


Hal Johnson said...

I loved this, in all its bittersweet sensibility. I wonder about you and Gary going through your sons exiting childhood not one, but four times. Certainly, I think, it must be easier with only one.

But then, there is only one. There is no baby behind him.

Maybe, since your youngest is thirteen, we're in similar places. There is no baby behind your thirteen year old.

I was nearly thirty-eight when I married for the first and hopefully last time. I remember in my single life feeling envious of female friends because they could cry.

I cried more in the first five years of my son's life than I had in my entire adult life previously, and for many reasons.

And now, I think about how I came home last time to find him as tall as his mom, and the screen gets kind of blurry.

jeanie said...

Oh Mary - you got me! (that is what my sister and I say to each other when the tears come, not through sadness but an overwhelm of feeling)

I am right at the other end, with a 12 year old daughter getting up to my height and surprising me with her maturity (and thus the intermittent adolescent flashes are even more stark)

A beautiful moment captured.

Mary O. Paddock said...

Hey! Thanks everyone. It did make me all misty, that's for sure.

Scotty-It pleases me greatly that they all have the capacity to turn moments like this into wins.

Hal--That "no baby left" thing--yeah. That one gets me too. Wait until he starts shaving. :)

Jeanie--Thank you. They grow up so darned fast. I wish I could crystalize certain moments and reconstitute them later, you know?