I parked in front of the oral surgeon’s office and gathered my things to get out of the car. I was all the way to the office door before realizing my son wasn’t trailing behind.
He was still sitting in the car.
I could see him taking off his sweatshirt and collecting his own things but he was in slow motion which I very much understood.
I gave him a few more moments before I went to check him in.
When he joined me, he was upset and angry with me he’d forgotten his ear buds. Music had been his plan to transport himself away – to wherever rappers hung out-while the surgeon did his thing.
But recently I’ve realized when he is at his worst, he is also at his most anxious.
Earbuds or no ear buds, he was going in.
The doctor assured the both of us he would be fine and well looked after. I put in my own imaginary ear buds and opened the book I’d brought.
How I hated handing over my children for things they surely would find painful or uncomfortable.
The first day of a new daycare.
A shot at the pediatrician’s office.
All of it made little pieces of my heart break off.
I know these things are for their own good but it’s still hard.
The first time I handed over my newborn to the nurse, it was because his umbilical cord was still stubbornly attached and they felt they needed to remove it. I seriously felt faint. “Cauterize.” The word even sounded horrible.
I handed him over and stepped into the hall. I listened to his “white cry” (I’d named his cries-white was for pain) and I cried too.
Eighteen years later and here we are another doctor’s office.
The intervening eighteen years have been so fast. Lightning fast.
It’s hard to believe he’s standing on the cusp of adulthood
Two more weeks between me and tattoo parlors, joining the military, signing contracts, and getting married legally (I would just drop dead if he came home married. Get all the tattoos you want, Buddy, save marriage for another decade).
When his surgery was finished, I was invited back to join him.
Now for anyone that has ever raised a child, you know how a teen can look at you. Eyes hooded, barely looking you in the eye.
Body language guarded.
We have been living this dream for a few years in this house. I missed my son in his younger years.
Climbing into bed for a snuggle, this perfect little face looking up at me, trusting what I had to say.
Where did all the smiles go?
Yesterday it was a perfectly normal street and traffic went in both directions.
You panic, pull over and turn around hoping you don’t get killed or kill anyone else before you can get out.
Everything about a teenager screams one way.
“Where are you going?”
“What are you doing?”
“Who are you meeting?”
Sam was given a combination of laughing gas and Novocaine.
We’d decided against full-on anesthesia and rejected Novocaine only as unnecessarily barbaric.
Laughing gas is bad, evil, addictive, neuron-killing, brain damaging, and to be avoided unless you are getting your wisdom teeth out.
Because when he had laughing gas, his smile was as wide as when he was six years old and he has a beautiful smile (orthodontist approved).
His gorgeous green eyes were wide open and trusting when he was looking at me.
It was a two-way street again.
He was funny. I was even funny. I asked questions and he answered.
Louis Armstrong even showed up singing, “It’s a Wonderful World”, birds were chirping, and the sun was out.
And I thought, “Oh, thank God, he is still in there.”
He’s just a teenager after all.
I think he might have gotten a little lost in all those one-way streets, too.
Being a teenager is hard.
Being a mother of a teenager might be even harder.
But I’ll be here.
Waiting for those streets to open up again.
Jennifer Weaver lives in New England with her family and her much adored terrier, Neil Patrick Harris. A background in education, she has written for Expat Child, Mothering Matters (Zürich, Switzerland), and the Ellsworth American (Ellsworth, Maine). She began writing as a way to chronicle her experiences living abroad. More of her writing can be found at Weaving In and Out.