This summer I have spent a lot of time with the boy child. He’s not in Hawaii, or Costa Rica, or Australia. I am not in China, or India, or New York. He’s on the sofa a lot. I’m on the sofa a lot. We sit together. I have heard his thoughts on great novels of the past 25 years, why he likes reality TV, and the interpretation of Pokemon. I have seen him drive cars, wander around the house in boxers, buy new shoes. All is not one giant swell of mother love, however. I bought him new soap. The Axe began to overwhelm me. Anyone who has spent time with teenage boys lately knows whereof I speak.
I have such empathy for boys. I see how hard it is for some to grow up and become a man. I remember talking once to my brother the psychologist. Explaining how even women highly competent in their jobs often want a man who will kill metaphorical monsters. How when you have children you are suddenly felled by lack of sleep, and nursing babies, and the enormous realization that you do not in any way know what you are doing. And were a monster to show up, you’d be in trouble. Even those of us who fought like hell in our careers take one look at that soft baby in our arms and another look at the charging monster and say to our partners, “You go kill it. You go kill it.” My brilliant brother said that when he sees monsters his brain tells him not to go near them. I sympathize.
To my great delight, the boy child has started to sing this summer. He sits in his room playing keyboard and I hear him singing other people’s songs. He calls me in to listen. Sometimes it sounds so beautiful I want to cry. Once I did. I don’t think he noticed. Not that his voice is perfect. I am realistic. He is not the next Andrea Bocelli. But he has something, a tone, something lovely and human beyond the joy I feel hearing my child do just about anything. I might be wrong about this. It’s as true as I can make it.
Yesterday he came out of his room. I was sitting on the sofa. “Mom,” he said, “Do you want to come hear my first song?”
Every mother reading this will now start to laugh so hard they fall off their sofas. In fact, everyone might fall off those sofas. Do I want to hear my son’s first song? Do I want to hear my son’s first song? Uh, yeah.
The song was good. Better than I expected. I felt the guilty pleasure every mother does when their child is good at something. I didn’t cry. I was happy.
It is different now that he is 19 than when he was 8, playing piano. I understand that. Or 5, strewing origami creatures across the dining room table. Those things I got to show off. I know, bad mom. Sorry. But it’s true. Now the stakes are higher. This is also true. I can’t let drop in casual conversation, “Oh, my son wrote his first song the other day.” It’s not my achievement. It’s his. He is not that soft baby in my arms, and I have known this for some time. It makes me cry only now and again.
Game on. Boy child 1. Monsters unknown.