In June my son graduated from middle school: an all boy, conservative, Episcopalian school housed in a cathedral, where the boys wear a uniform of gray pants, a blue oxford, and blue and red tie.
He is now at a public high school, with boys who either dress in “skater inspired gear” consisting of longer khaki pants, vans, and vintage t-shirts; or the standard basketball gear of too big shorts, logoed t-shirts and expensive high top tennis shoes. The girls wear mini-shorts that barely cover their butt cheeks or yoga pants that suggest that camel toe is a fashion accessory.
And he is losing is sackafracking mind.
I know what I’m doing is rather taboo. The thing is to brag about our kids. I love my son, I do; but I’m just a realist by nature. My dude, is fucking up right now.
Everyone keeps asking me, “So how is he liking high school.” I tell them all the truth, “he loves it.” I guess they can hear the snarkiness in my voice because the inquirer will usually come back with some question akin to, “Isn’t that a good thing?”
This is the thing: I want my son to like high school, but in the way that a person likes corn, not in the way people like chocolate. I want him to think it’s decent, but not decadent. He seems to have forgotten about any sort of nourishment and is just inhaling the sweet stuff.
Let’s take P.E. for instance. Yes, P.E. No offense to the physical education teachers out there, but I just assumed that this class was a slam dunk for an easy A, particularly since my son is athletic. Wrong. In the second week of school, I get a call from the P.E. teacher. Evidently, my son stopped wearing his gym uniform after the first two days of school. I, of course, immediately think that perhaps my son is dealing with typical teenage modesty issues. Perhaps the poor dear is embarrassed about things that are happening to his body during puberty. So, I mentally prepare to give him a talk that exudes empathy, provides guidance, and ends with a warm hug. You know why he wasn’t wearing his uniform? He lost it. Yep. He lost the entire thing after just two days and didn’t bother mentioning it to anyone or trying to purchase a new one.
The P.E. uniform unfortunately wasn’t an anomaly. In just two months of school, my son has also lost his school ID, his wallet (twice), a few completed assignments, a bike lock, and his school agenda.
On the other hand, he has gained about two inches, five or six pounds, a colorful new vocabulary and the balls to kiss a girl right in front of me during pick-up one day.
So there’s balance. Right?!
During this period, I’m, of course, being the parent that I’ve always been: either brilliant or dysfunctional depending on the minute. When he first started losing things, I was as calm as “Mrs. Brady.” I rationalized that he was going through a transitional period. When he lost his bike lock, I turned into the epitome of destructive and loudly questioned if he even had a future. I screamed, do you think that you are going to live with me and your father when you can’t get into college or find a good job. Yep, a lost bike lock had me envisioning my child with three baby’s mommas, a job at the local pizza delivery place and permanent residence on my couch. When he kissed the girl in front of me, I acted as if it was no big deal because I want him to feel comfortable sharing things with me—build that bond of trust. Whereas, at night, I creep through his text messages to see what’s going on with the girl.
Yep, I’m the bipolar of motherhood.
Tonight, he brought home a bad test grade from his English class. Immediately, I again envisioned him on my couch, but this time I bit my serpent tongue. Instead, I made him sit down with me at the dining room table. We took turns reading the book aloud to one another, and discussing it. As he read aloud to me and we shared our connections to the story, I felt better than I had in awhile.
This transition has been tough on both of us. We’ve both been messing up. I can’t sugarcoat that. I’m not a shit and spray type of person. When it stinks; it stinks. And my son and I are funky (and not the good kind). He lost his focus—the academics. I lost my focus—supporting him, particularly when he’s wobbly.
I’ve always said that in being a parent, I have seen the best of me and the worst of me. I just keep crossing my fingers that at the end of all this my son and I can agree that I’ve earned more A’s than F’s.
My intention is for Black people to love themselves and each other. It sounds somewhat silly, I guess; but oftentimes my people are overwhelmed with negative images, bad news, and stereotyped characters about us. I’d like to flip that script. I’d like to remind us, as often as I can, how incredible we are. Read more