My son recently turned 13, and the last traces of that sweet
little boy who thought I hung the moon seem to have vanished. In his place is a strange, slouching creature with a pencil-thin
mustache and adolescent angst oozing from every pore.
This extraterrestrial I once called flesh and blood, whose
mood swings dwarf the Grand Canyon, seems intent on bungee jumping from that rickety bridge connecting a child with adulthood.
And I think he plans on dragging his rapidly aging mother along for the ride.
A drastic language change was the
first indication of alien infestation in my once-cherished offspring. The rosy-cheeked cherub who used to run to me, eyes
shining with adoration and shouting "Mommy!" began to address me (and everyone else) as "Dude."
At 13 months, he was a sponge, joyfully soaking up new words, becoming more communicative every day. At 13 years, the hormones
surging through his body have cut a swath through the speech center in his brain; his mouth, when it speaks at all, produces
mere shrunken shreds of complete sentences apparently understood only by other members of his species.
"S'up" is a perfectly acceptable, all-purpose phrase
in an adolescent's world.
"Mom, I love you," on the other hand, would burn his monosyllabic lips
like acid and permanently corrupt his coolness.
Communication with this high-tech yet illiterate generation is
fraught with frustration. My son, who can't seem to utter two intelligible sentences to me, airs his gripes through text
messaging. Just the other day, a message flashed on my cell phone in fractured syntax designed to torture my English-major
"i no u h8 me. i try so hard 2 b good. y r u mad @ me?"
Cave men scribbling on walls
were more eloquent.
Then there's the alteration in appearance. While I'm desperately trying to avoid bags
and sags, this long-haired Neanderthal living in my house embraces them as fashion. Wearing gravity-defying pants slung low
across his scrawny backside, he looks just like a baby with an overly full diaper. When I helpfully pointed this out, I got
another overwrought electronic missive that ended with the text message equivalent of a scream. This modern means of
communication does keep the house quiet.
Adolescent males seem to lose all capacity for living like civilized
human beings. This means that my boy constantly raids the refrigerator but can't manage to close a door, that he can take
30-minute showers but never hang up a wet towel, that he stuffs freshly laundered clothes back into his hamper rather than
putting them away. I find sticky cereal bowls in his closet because he was too lazy to return them to the kitchen, and the
lunchbox he claimed he lost growing whole colonies of bacteria under his bed. I now understand why some animals eat their
The child who begged me to read to him daily now rolls his eyes in disgust when I suggest we turn off the
video games and pick up a book. The angel who proudly showed me off to his kindergarten classmates now pretends not to know
the deranged woman waving to him in the middle school hallway.
My fall from grace, seemingly overnight, has left
me depressed, bewildered and prone to emotional excess.
"You could cut the apron strings without slicing
through my heart, you know," I whimper in one of my calmer moments.
"Mom," he mumbles in that teenage
tone of voice, "why can't you just act normal?"
Normal is, of course, a relative term. In about
10 years, I will magically return to normalcy as my pubescent boy turns into an adult. At least I hope I do. In the meantime,
I'm going to hang on to those severed apron strings. I may need them to strangle him.
© Jackie Papandrew,
All Rights Reserved
is just one of the stories in my upcoming book, Airing My Dirty Laundry. Want to receive my column once a month via
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