Just when I am wallowing in a good, deep, pit of despair because my baby – the boy child, the 16-year-old going on 60-year-old – doesn't need me anymore, life puts a little hurdle out there that proves Moms can be pretty useful. Even if the boy child doesn't want to admit it.
Ever since his sister left for college (thoughtlessly leaving him as the sole recipient of his parent's attention) The Little Prince has done everything he can to assert his independence. Everything he can, that is, while still living under our roof and enjoying free groceries, laundry, and maid service. As soon as he turned 16 he got a job, so he now supports his musical and automotive ambitions, as well as a steady diet of fast-food and jumbo convenience store sodas. Despite his relative economic autonomy, the occasional gas-money donation is still appreciated, and I have found that I seldom (although not never) get change back when I ask him to run an errand for me. This child-labor service charge is a small price to pay for convenience, I suppose.
Between work and well-timed outings with his friends, his schedule precludes dinner with the 'rents most nights (possibly because his mother insists on using lame, outdated slang like “'rents”). He typically shuns homemade leftovers (a trait inherited from his father), preferring microwaved delicacies such as pizza rolls and frozen chicken wings. Likewise breakfast (Pop Tarts) is spent in silent contemplation (a trait inherited from his mother), scuttling back to his room like a hermit to his hermitage as soon as the toaster pops.
I don't blog much about The Little Prince, precisely because he is so self-sufficient and easily embarrassed. I fear any public recognition (actually, I know from experience that any public recognition) will result in an immediate cessation of his already limited acknowledgment of my existence. Let me tell you, you have never been shunned until you have been shunned by a teenage boy.
But I have learned to live with it. Just like I have learned to not jump out of my skin when he slips silently into my office/hermitage and stands there – silently – nodding and occasionally making eye, until I summon all my Super Mom abilities and read his mind.
“Going out with your buddies?” I ask/say/hypothesize.
“Yup,” he says before silently slipping away. My petition to "have fun, be good, love you" chases him down the hallway.
So it was early Saturday morning, when he materialized at my side as I was finishing my first cup of coffee. He stood quietly, nodding with a bit more agitation than usual.
“Heading to work?” I asked.
“Need a coat,” he said, grimacing.
Now, I could have reminded him that I have nagged him for at least two years about getting a winter coat. I could have reminded him that last year I took him shopping and practically forced him to buy a coat before relenting when I realized it would just hang, unused, in the closet. I could have reminded him that he has lived in Iowa for 16 winters and he knows that it gets cold and he knows that his job requires him to spend at least a little bit of time outdoors. But as the temperature hovered at a balmy 2 degrees (expected to fall) and he needed to get to work, I kept all this to myself.
Instead I left my coffee to cool while I helped him search through closets and totes and drawers for a coat, gloves and boots. Then I realized he had grown at least a foot taller since he had last worn a proper winter coat, gloves or boots (since, apparently, high school students are too cool these things) and he had to borrow said items from his father (who was outside and wearing them at the time, because old folks value warmth over coolness).
You may wonder why he didn't ask his father if he could borrow a coat in the first place, instead of making his mother feel like she had neglected him by not forcing him to get a winter coat. You could also ask yourself why (a month ago) he told his mother – at 6 a.m., during her first cup of coffee – that his arm hurt and he thought he might have broken it. And why he then allowed her to sit nervously in the emergency room with him and allowed her to take him out for breakfast when it turned out it wasn't broken.
You may wonder that, but I would prefer that you wonder that in silence. While you're at it, perhaps you could nod your head and wait – silently – for me to acknowledge your presence.
Because the important thing here is that my little boy still needs his mom (whether he will admit it or not).
And a coat.