There are few creatures on earth that seem as alien to me these days as a teenage boy. I haven’t considered much about them, probably since I was a teenage girl.
Now that I am mother to a son, I pay more attention, particularly to interactions between parents and boys. A couple of months ago, I watched a mother smiling ear to ear as she pushed her shirtless seven- or eight-year-old around in a grocery cart. His hair was buzzed down to golden fuzz and his front teeth looked big and new to his face. The boy and his mother seemed to be enjoying each other’s company immensely and for no discernible reason. She nodded at me, I think because I had my own, considerably smaller boy in a shopping cart. Being mothers of boys connected us somehow.
I notice the awkwardness of skinny boys walking down the street with haircuts that are supposed to look like they aren’t haircuts hiding their eyes. I picture Declan becoming this kind of teenager, although it’s just as likely he’ll become a stocky athlete. With our long-haired ways, a buzz haircut could be his form of rebellion.
Yesterday, as I was scanning a clearance rack at Target, I saw a teenage boy lumbering from aisle to aisle with a silver mesh garbage can over his head like a space helmet. He stopped at the end of two or three aisles with his hands open expectantly, waiting for a response. He finally found his father, who paused a cell phone conversation just long enough to give him a quick, amused smile. I saw them in the store a couple more times before I checked out. The garbage can was still on the boy’s head as they perused products in the shampoo aisle.
I found myself thinking that if Declan has that kind of sense of humor about himself when he’s a teenager, we will have done alright as parents.