Tonight, Geo was inducted into Phi Theta Kappa. So proud of this kid.
It’s not the best photo–but I love the look on our son’s face. The weather here has been glorious this week. And we spent most of last evening outside–hanging out on the porch with our telescope. The sky was perfection: the moon, Jupiter, and Mars all clearly visible.
It’s these things I hold on to. I love these two people, so much.
Ok, so there should probably be a photo with this post. But, the boy has a social life: so he’s not around today to snap a photo. Maybe later this week?
Geo came home from Christmas shopping last night, “Oh, mom, you put my birthday tree up!” And then he got kinda quiet and said, “I’m sad to be turning 17.”
When you push him on that he’ll tell you — with these heartbreaking tears welling up in his eyes — that he feels his childhood slipping away.
“Oh, don’t cry!” I’m a sympathetic crier and I can feel the waterworks brewing up on their own. Lately, tears are always so close to the surface. But his face scrunches up in that unmistakable twist and we’re both wiping our eyes. It’s misery, this growing up stuff.
He’s worried his relationship with his parents will change. We assure him that it will, for the better. There will be friends and women and a family of his own. Grandbabies, even! In time, his father interjects!
“You’ll get a second chance at childhood, we promise! It’s better the second time.”
“When you have children. And then another chance with grandchildren!– Besides,” we tell him, “we’ll happily boss you about for as long as you’ll let us!”
Right now his response is always, “forever.”
That’s a fib he’s telling himself that I’m not correcting at the moment, but I know better. Because he’s never liked anyone bossing him about. Though, he’s romanticized this concept of childhood. For a child who has done nothing but dream of going to college, of being his own man, spending years telling me, “when I’m an adult”. . . well, he has a huge case of cold feet at the moment.
I’m not sure what it is, if this is the result of being an only child? It’s true, he doesn’t have any pesky younger siblings behind him to gently annoy him into leaving the house. He’s in no rush to drive, no rush to move out, dragging his feet and telling me everything.
Or if he senses my own grief and nostalgia? This lovely, brainy boy who also feels too deeply and can read his mother from a mile away — is he reticent because he’s picking up on my heartache?
I’m trying, friends, to gently hold on to the joy and excitement and the loveliness that is 17. But when he makes that face and falls into my arms, he’s crying for both of us and I can’t help but cry a bit too.
It is going to change. It’s already changing. That’s how it’s supposed to be. All those sleepless nights of toddlerhood give way to sleepless nights of mothering a teenager. The worries are different, but just as poingnant. Will he ever talk or will he ever walk gives way to where will his feet take him? How far away from home will a new love carry him?
The gradual goodbye requires being present to the pain and living in the moment in spite of it. So, we are just a bit weepy this birthday. The whole lot of us. Remembering who he once was, dreaming about who he is becoming. Promising, that no matter what changes come, we will remain this knotted bonded family. And we are reminding him that, yes, we’ll continue to boss him about forever — just as long as he’ll stand for it. And, not minute more.
After the ridiculousness of last week, I started to password protect this post. But then decided, it’s my truth. As Ann Lamott has so eloquently said, “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”
When our son was born, I filled out the birth certificate paperwork very carefully. His father had taken my maiden name in hyphenate form years before. On our honeymoon, in fact… in what was a romantic gesture (if a bit short-sighted) he opted to add my name to his.
Today, it might seem obvious. But at the time, it caused a stir. I had already angered his family by keeping my maiden name as a middle name. I tried to explain, “I plan to take IZ’s name in my personal life. But in my professional life, I want both. Unhyphenated, but both.”
My father-in-law supported my decision. My mother-in-law was incensed. It would be five years before she would address anything to us in our new combined name. Insisting instead to address everything, “Mr. and Mrs. J.A. Larsen.”
Probably not the best move on her part. Her obstinateness on the subject just sealed my resolve. OMG… I’m as oppositional as my child. Figures.
But I never had any expectation that IZ would follow suit. And I certainly didn’t expect my child to keep my maiden name. So, when it came time to fill out his birth certificate paper work I was careful. I gave him five names. No hyphens. One last name.
And I fully expected our son to drop the OATES portion of our name once he flew the coop. Baby chicks do that, think for themselves. I should know. However, Geo has been feeling the itch for the past several years. And we’ve always said to him, “Sweetie, if you want to be called ‘Stardust Revived’, we’ll call you that. It your name.”
I’ve always told him I would not, could not be upset with any choice he made. Though, I prefer he kept his given first name, the rest was up for grabs.
He has opted, for example, to Americanize his first name for strangers. He still spells his name as it appears on his birth certificate, but the French pronunciation is confusing for most people, so he has stopped insisting that his name be said correctly. He’s adopted a pseudonym for all his programming online—a name, that tellingly includes Larsen as a last name. And he, quietly, wonders what the future will look like when he is simply, Geo Larsen.
But as of late, I have sensed a hesitation from him. His desire to walk away from my past is palpable. He no longer considers my family of birth his family. He’s had enough (who can blame him?). However, he feels conflicted. “Giving up ‘Oates’ feels like I’m disrespecting you!”
Have I told you how much I love that kid? Like his father, he is compelled by his love for me. And with that comes a huge responsibility to not abuse their loyalty!
So, I’ve sat with it. Our son’s desire to embrace the family that loves him, the heritage he understands, the people who have loved him without criticism or judgment. Those same people have not always afforded me the same grace. But they have, without doubt, embraced my child. And through the years, attempted to embrace me as well.
No easy task, as I’ve been labeled difficult since birth!
The more I sat with the idea, the more I realized that for Geo to move forward it would require that I move forward as well. So, last year I floated the idea to IZ, “He wants to be a Larsen. Which, he IS. I think he needs us to be Larsens, too. Just Larsens.”
I was prepared for this moment. I’ve long anticipated the change, if only because hyphenated names are common and what do you do when you fall in love and marry another hyphenate? FOUR names strung together? I don’t think so. Even three gets complicated. YES, he could marry some girl willing to take his name. But, Geo is his father’s child. You know he’d be trying to find a way to include his beloved, like his father did before him! So, dropping the “Oates” part of his name is inevitable.
What I could not have predicted is my desire to do the same. I could not have imagined that at 41, I would not only be considering a name change for my child, but I would be considering it for ME as well. It’s amazing where our children lead us.
Corners of our home: a watch and a half woven lanyard in the bathroom window. . . I’m always finding creative detritus left by this child.
Valentine Trifecta: candy, stuffed animals, a homemade card.
Stop Breaking My Heart Kid:
The 15 Year Old: “So, Valentine’s Day is soon?”
15: “Oh. I don’t really have anyone to be my Â Valentine. Â (long pause, sigh, sigh, sigh) I guess there’s always you. (long pause) I mean, there’s a mom’s love, right?
Me: “I will always be your Valentine!”
Seriously, 15 is breaking my heart. On the one hand, I completely understand those sighs. Because at 15 who doesn’t want a Valentine. A real little romance to moon over, a hand to hold, a person to call on the phone, “no, you hang up, no you hang up.” But as his mother, I’m relieved. Sad, but relieved. He’s 15. I’d like him to learn to finish his laundry and keep his clothes (not to mention those blasted legos) off the floor before he endeavors to win the heart of another girl.
And he has high standards. Which is also good. And he’s homeschooled, which really narrows the pool. I’m safe and I know it. There are no girls on the horizon in the near future. But, honestly, on a day like today, I wish there was. I’d gladly give up my Valentine status to see him smile. A real, “holy cow she LIKES me” smile. . . not the wistfulness I get when I hand him his candy in the morning. Â Long pause. sigh. sigh. sigh.
I know some of you are not keen on this day. Or even if you are, life has brought you to a point where you’re looking about for a Valentine and the only face showing up for the role is your mom. And you might be commiserating with your 15 year old self and wondering, “Why don’t I have a Valentine?”
It’s OK. It really is. Because your mom loves you. . . and so do I. And we Â both believe there is someone special waiting for you. Because we’re mothers and we know. Until then, we’ll happily stand in the breach and let you break our Â hearts. We will always be your Valentine.
But really, pick up your clothes already.