You are a teenager now, and nobody told me this would happen. They said, "Time flies" or "You'll blink and he'll be grown" or "Savor it ... pretty soon he'll be gone and you'll wonder what happened!" And I rolled my eyes and thought, "Yeah right. They don't have to live with it."
The truth is that in raising children, the moments are long but the years are short. And now thirteen of them have disappeared. Now you only have to endure five more years of torture from us before you flap away.
When you were smaller, I used these letters to record all of your changes and growth. These days, there is certainly growth, but it is harder to document because it is subtler, more nuanced ... much more difficult to describe. For one thing, there's your hair, which has always been amazing, but now you seem to have opinions about it much much more than ever before. You have recently gone from long, to medium, to short in a matter of a month. Now it is short and apparently needs a certain product called "Bedhead Manipulator" that comes in a 2-ounce tub for $20. You're 13, and we spend $10/ounce on your hair products. That's love, buddy.
You have a couple of jobs (mowing lawns) which earn you a little money, and generally you do not complain too much about this work. But we are still trying to tame the drama surrounding the chore of emptying the dishwasher.
And the drama around photos.
And the drama around eletronics.
And the drama around haircuts.
And the drama around ear drops/ear doctors.
Where did you get all this dramatic flair (and hair)? 😉
Lately, you have wanted me to scratch your back before bed. We no longer read stories anymore because you have long been reading on your own, but I miss that. It is, however, making me treasure that time with your brother, so I guess I'm learning something from being your mom. I have been saying yes to this back-scratching request because I know that the time when you will want me around is fleeting, so I'm trying to savor it.
John -- your dad and I are SO proud of you. As I wrote in your birthday card ... we love you AND we like you! Here is a poem that in many ways encapsulates what I want to say to/about you ... just ignore the bits about portobellos, activism, and being a pescetarian and look for the similarities, including a love of raspberries, a history of hair changes, and my efforts to keep you alive.
Happy 13th birthday John-John! Don't flap away too quickly.
tonight I’m cleaning baby portobellos
for you, my young activist
wiping the dirty tops with a damp cloth
as carefully as I used to rinse raspberries
for you to adorn your fingertips
before eating each blood-red prize
these days you rarely look me in the eye
& your long shagged hair hides your smile
I don’t expect you to remember or
understand the many ways I’ve kept you
alive or the life my love for you
has made me live
About This Poem
“I wrote this poem for and about my oldest son when he was about nine years old and had decided to become a pescetarian after reading a book about the meatpacking industry. My son is now about to turn eighteen and will leave for college this summer. We are still dancing the beautiful, painful dance of mother-child separation and attachment, different steps, different haircuts, same love.” —Rachel Zucker