Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Good Mom

Two weeks ago I noticed a change in my son. He is seventeen. He is male. But generally he’s been a pretty decent teen to live with. He gives his dad lip sometimes, the classic challenge of authority I read about when he was a toddler, and I was scared to death of ever being the mother of teens. Generally dad is patient and so far hasn’t strung him up from a tree in the front yard.

But overall he’s been pretty easy going with me. I buy him the right granola bars and make sure his lizard has fresh crickets once a week. I seem to do things to his satisfaction and if anyone is going to be the bad guy, it’s dad. Until a few weeks ago. Then someone else came to live in the body that used to house my son.

He started being crabby over little things. His laundry wasn’t done fast enough for his standards. It annoyed him when I didn’t see him in the pack of fifty kids standing outside the high school after track practice. I dared to pull forward and park, yes park, which meant he had to walk an extra fifty feet. Unforgivable.

The crabbiness carried over to the hour before dinner, when he used to come into the kitchen and sneak a few bites of the freshly cut carrots or peanut butter dipped celery while he scoped out what I was making for dinner. I would ask about his day, he would smile and share only the basics, but hey, we were talking.

Then the mood changed and I no longer recognized this boy. I tried to take cues from his dad, who was more familiar with the fussy factor. When the comments, made in anger, got very personal and downright un-necessary he was sent to his room. He was not happy about it but it was very evident our ‘discussion’ was not productive and the rest of the family didn’t need to be poisoned by his anger.

The next day he was better. Still not the boy I used to know but tolerable. Slowly, day by day, he has begun to come around. Whatever hormones were raging seemed to be finally quieting a bit. Whatever life situations he had issue with before, didn’t seem so important anymore.

Then today happened.

It’s our first truly sunny day in a half a year. After long months of overcast skies and rain storms alternating with snow storms, it looks like spring might actually arrive someday soon. The sun has been shining through the window all morning, calling me outside. I sat at my computer desk, doing the paperwork that needed to be done, knowing I would get to escape after lunch, to pick up my boy from school a couple of hours early.

His school physical is due if he wants to retain his spot on the track team. I printed off the form from the school website then happily walked out the door into the warm breezes that made me instantly feel ten pounds lighter. I practically skipped to the car and within minutes he was jumping into the front seat, free from the chains of school pressures. I welcomed the big smile that radiated from his face.

“My biophilia is kickin’ in!” he announced.

I had no idea what ailment that might be, but I liked what it was doing for my kid.

“My science teacher told us about it. It’s like a proven scientific fact or something, about how humans are drawn to nature and yearn to be out in it, not cooped up in buildings. It’s why we keep lookin’ out the window when we are sitting inside.”

I had never heard of this phenomenon but in the brightness of the moment, with my suddenly happy go lucky kid sitting in the seat beside me, practically radiating joy, I was an instant believer.

He chattered away as we made the short trek to the doc’s office. Even in the waiting room he freely shared about his day, his thoughts, his newest scientific beliefs. At one point his face clouded over and he leaned in to me, wanting to whisper into my ear.

“Mom, we forgot the physical form…it’s in my locker at school…”

I coolly reached over into my purse and pulled out a copy I’d printed off from the internet. Instant delight once again returned to his face. Big, big good mama points.

He passed his physical with flying colors, of course. The kid is almost 5’10” of pure muscle and health. He runs all the time, eats mostly good stuff, and never complains about physical ailments. As we stood at the checkout desk his face once again became cloudy.

The track bus was scheduled to leave from the high school at 2:45, headed to a nature preserve for some long running trails. Afterward the gang would stop at the local quick stop, where you get free ice cream cones if you wear green on St. Patrick’s day. My boy knew he’d never make it back to school in time to catch the bus. I was suddenly determined to get him there.

He really, really, really wanted to drive so I let him have my keys (gulp) and we were off, carefully navigating the five miles to school, hoping to catch the bus just in time.

As we pulled into the long drive that leads to the school we both saw it at the same time. The bus was pulling out and headed our way, packed full of track kids and headed for the park.

“Just pull over and we’ll flag the bus down.” I said.

He hesitated. Like his dad, he doesn’t like making quick decisions. But sometimes if you don’t jump quickly, you miss out.

“Really,” I said, “Just put the car in park. I will stop the bus.”

He still wasn’t sure but he did as instructed. Right in the middle of the school driveway we came to a complete stop. I got out and came around to the middle of the road, conveniently wearing my bright orange rain jacket, and I threw my hand up in the air, as if I were waving down a NYC cab.

And whatdayaknow...the bus driver saw me in plenty of time and he stopped. With a huge grin on his face, my son hopped out of the van, grabbed his gym bag out of the back seat and trotted off to the bus. Cheers came from inside the bus as his running buddies realized Mike had made it after all.

More big good mama points. I got a big wave from his coach, then from my boy, as the bus pulled away and I took over the driver’s seat of my double-parked minivan. And you know what? I couldn’t stop smiling on the way home.

Maybe it was the sun shining so soothingly through the front windshield. Maybe it was the incredibly warm breeze that wafted in from rolled down windows.

Or maybe, more likely, it was because I seem to have my boy back. For now, for just this afternoon at least, I am back to being the good mom, the one who looks out for him and does things right. The one who meets his needs and makes him happy.

And that, my friend, feels really, really sweet.


goofdad said...

Then it comes to be that the soothing light at the end of your tunnel ...

It's just a freight train comin your way!

Glad it became good times. Glad it worked out, and that mom is back on the A list. Hope it stays that way, at least for a little while.

Terry Castle said...

Oh my! I know just how you feel. It is difficult to see them drifting away and equally as wonderful when they are back. It's a wild ride and one that you captured perfectly. You're a great Mom!!!!!!!!!!

Kristen @ Motherese said...

I became a total beast when I was about your son's age. Nothing my parents did was right. Up to that point I had always been a great kid and I became one again soon thereafter. Maybe it was hormones? Or too many cloudy, snowy days? But whatever it was, it didn't last long, and I was lucky enough to have parents as understanding as you clearly are!