Thursday, April 25, 2013

Jack turns fourteen on Saturday. He seems to be of the opinion that he's turning twenty-one, but he's been of that opinion for a couple of years now. I'm sure it outrages him that we won't let him drive himself to school.

Having a (nearly) fourteen-year-old child has been interesting. I've had a couple of occasions recently where I've really had to make myself step back, mom-wise. For instance, the day before the eighth grade left for their three-day trip. One of the items on Jack's packing list was a rain jacket. Where was Jack's rain jacket? At school, of course.

The Man left Jack a note that morning that read, "Don't forget your jacket!" When I dropped Jack off at school, I called after him, "Don't forget your jacket!" And yes, I emailed him that afternoon to not forget his jacket.

In spite of this, what were the odds that he'd forget his jacket? Really, really good. So I decided to email his advisor, Mr. S. I began by writing, "Dear Mr. S., I hope I don't seem like one of those helicopter parents to you, but ..." and then I stopped. I deleted the email.

Jack is too old to have his mom email his advisor about a jacket.

The other recent situation: Jack has been having a group of friends over on Sunday afternoons to play Dungeons and Dragons for a couple of hours. Every week the guys all say they'll be there, and sometimes they are, but other times only one or two of them show up, and one week no one showed up. The Mom in me wants to take over, to email the boys' parents on Thursday nights, "Please confirm that your child will be here on Sunday. They claim they're coming, but you may have entirely different plans for them, and it would be good to know."

But I can't. It's not my job to run that part of Jack's life anymore. He can figure out a better way to confirm who's coming on Sundays, or he can live with the suspense. Me, I don't have a pony in the race.

The hardest thing for me right now is backing off on hygiene patrol. Every once in awhile I get pushy about his skin, but even that is starting to feel like trespassing into territory that isn't much of my business anymore. I feel okay about reminding him to shower (and can't wait for the day when he doesn't need reminding) and have no scruples about forcing him to get his hair cut. But he knows when his skin is broken out, and he knows what to do about it. There's something undignified about me standing outside of the bathroom door while he's brushing his teeth and calling, "Don't forget to use your skin stuff!"

I have no doubt that one day soon, maybe this week, maybe next, you'll find me outside the bathroom door calling, "Don't forget your skin stuff!" I haven't quite gotten the knack of being a mother to a fourteen-year-old boy. Confession: I pretty much packed Jack's bag the night before the 8th grade trip. I didn't want him to forget anything, and I didn't want his clothes getting all wrinkled because he'd scrunched them in instead of folding them first.

But even while I was doing it, I knew I should be letting him pack. He was just standing around watching me,  not eager to help, but not entirely comfortable with the fact that I'd more or less taken over his life. Again.

 Well, I'll know better next time. Seem like we're all on a learning curve around here.

P.S. Jack remembered his jacket. My baby's growing up!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Catching Up

So, it's been a while, my dears, and I can't explain exactly why. I feel a big chunk of my life has been given over to driving boys hither and yon. But there are other things as well. Last week, I drove to Kentucky to meet my mom so we could drive to Cincinnati for the Cincinnati International Quilt Festival. My mom is a good traveling companion and quilting buddy. We took two classes and wished we had time to take more.

                                                 Me and my mom at the festival.

Two weeks ago, I went to Uncle Eli's Quilting Party in Eli Whitney, NC. It's a gathering of quilters and other local folks that happens the first Thursday of every April, and has been happening now for eighty-two years.

I brought my audio recorder and interviewed a bunch of people. One of the women I interviewed was 84 and said she'd been coming to the quilting party all of her life. She said her mother had made quilts, but she never did. She had five children and worked in a mill and there just wasn't time.

The whole morning I felt like I was surrounded by the Man's aunts. Good country people who pretty much have stayed put, worked hard, raised their children, and found creative outlets when and where they could. Ten years from now, a lot of the folks I talked to will be gone and so will their way of life. I hope that Uncle Eli's party will continue, but I wonder.

When I was at my parents' house in Kentucky, my dad asked me to take home a bunch of my boxes that had been stored in the basement. His latest project is getting all the junk out of their house so we children won't have to deal with it when he and my mother die. This sounds a touch morbid, but given that my father--my very healthy father--has been preparing for his imminent death for twenty years now, I'm used to it.

So anyway, I brought home the boxes, which are most filled with books I'll end up donating to the library. But there are several boxes of papers and photographs from college and grad school, some of which I've gone through. A lot of it is pretty cringe-worthy stuff--bad poetry and even worse academic papers, lots of pictures of me in one silly incarnation or another--and some of it hints at the adult I would become (including a journal I took with me on a trip to Berlin with friends when I was twenty-four, in which I confessed how embarrassed it made me to mostly just want to be home--twenty-five years later, I feel exactly the same way).

My favorite finds (and I would not have predicted this when I was twenty-four!) were pictures of my family back in the day--my little brother caught in the act of being goofy in his laid-back, cool way, my big brother trying to look suave, my mother looking young and beautiful at age forty-eight, the age I am now. And my dog! How fine it was to see my old dog.

Those are the pictures I'll keep. The one with the guy throwing back a beer at a frat party, a guy I don't even recognize and who's not even cute? That one goes.