Summer 2006
I stayed up late the other night finishing a book I didn’t really like but wanted to find out what happened in the end. The subject matter was disturbing; three out of five family members were murdered by the daughter’s ex-boyfriend. The mom and one of her teenaged twin sons survived.

The last quarter of the book focused on the relationship between the mom and her teenage son and the ups and downs of that relationship after the murders. And it was reading about this relationship that made me really emotional. That and the fact that 20 pages from the end, my almost 14 year-old son came down the stairs to tell me that he couldn’t sleep and that he saw the light on and just wanted to tell me that he loved me. Cue the violins and the body wracking sobs.

My husband was already asleep when I went to bed later that night. But the next morning he told me that I had been tossing and turning during the night. Something that I rarely do. And it was because of the book. That book got to me. The mother son relationship got to me.

Because recently, I’ve been dwelling on the fact that my son is a man boy. Temporarily stuck between being a kid and being a teenager. And though I’ve written about him growing older before, it just seems that my feelings about the passage of time and his aging get more and more intense as the days speed by and his 14th birthday approaches.

And I’ve been thinking back a lot about how he used to be compared to how he is now. One thing that has been consistent? That, like me, he has a mind that never stops. And he still asks me the most curious questions that are apropos of nothing while he is lying in bed in the dark. For example, “If two brothers married two sisters, what would their family tree look like?”  Or, “Whose birth was more painful? Mine or my sister’s.” Hands down him and I told him so. 24 hours of labor, a little crooked in utero and then an emergency C-section. The kid didn’t want to come out and my epidural didn’t work. I hadn’t known that could happen.

Another night, he asked, “What does como se dice mean?” Since I grew up in Miami, I know some Spanish. I told him it means “How do you say?” For example, como se dice “orange” en Espanol? And the person would respond naranja.  My son’s response to this late night, impromptu Spanish lesson was “Oh good, if I ever need to ask what something is in Spanish, I’ll know how.”

But there are also the things that are different now. And not just the physical signs of being taller, having more body hair and an increased appetite. He’s wanting to spend more time with his dad. His dad and I have been divorced for 8 years so this entails allowing my son to spend time with his dad when it’s really his time with me. And that’s okay. Most of the time it doesn’t hurt my feelings. But every once in a while it does.

And he’s starting to care more about how he looks and be more specific about how he dresses as well as his cleanliness. Two showers a day have become the norm, morning and night. He wears deodorant every day and washes his face with anti-acne soap. He takes really, really long showers with the door locked.

Yep, the times they are a changin’.

But the biggest change is in our relationship. We’re still as close as ever but I feel the need to keep myself from doing too much for him. He would be perfectly happy if I waited on him hand and foot for the rest of his life. And honestly, I’ve been known to do that in the past. He’s my baby. But it’s not the right thing to do. He’s perfectly capable of making his own breakfast, lunch and dinner. Of putting his own clothes away and making his bed. And making the decision that it’s time to get a fresh towel for his bathroom.

So, I’m stepping part of the way out of the picture. It wasn’t easy at first but it gets easier, for both of us, as time goes by. And it’s the right thing to do. He’ll be heading off to high school at the end of the summer. And before you know it, he’ll be driving. Gulp.

I know I’m getting ahead of myself. I’ll try not to think too far in to the future and live in the here and now. So when he gets home from school today, I’ll give him a stack of clean clothes to take up to his room and remind him to study for his test tomorrow. But first, I think I’ll take him and his sister to get ice cream. You’re never too old for ice cream.

P.S. The book I read is Anna Quindlen’s Every Last One.