I was hoping that nobody at the middle school would realize that I was spying on my son. I’d just followed the junior kindergarten bus to school, and I was hiding next door at the middle school, watching my first-born, Nicholas, get off the bus.
I didn’t want to be a helicopter mom, but if you knew how much hand-wringing I’d gone through before making the decision to put my son into junior kindergarten, our school system’s program for children who aren’t quite ready for the rigors of a competitive kindergarten (a.k.a. boys), you’d understand. He was the oldest kid in the program and, according to the principal, he really only needed half-a-year, but there was no such thing. As a result, the decision was much harder than I’d anticipated.
So I followed the bus to school. But when I watched the teacher greet him at the door as though a long-lost friend had just shown up after being missing at sea for months, I relaxed. In fact, I almost napped in the middle school parking lot.
I was in that parking lot again this weekend, only this time, I wasn’t following my son. Rather, I was dropping him off at the Teen Canteen, along with his friend, Drew. We were a little early, and though we could see there were people in the gym when we drove around the back of the school, the parking lot near the front entrance was empty except for a lone police car awaiting the onslaught of drop-offs.
Nick and Drew hopped out of my car and tried to open the doors by the main office, but they were locked. So they decided to test out all the doors until they’d found one that opens.
“If we don’t come back, we’re good,” he said. And then in his typical, nearly-a-teen, deadpan sarcasm added, “Or dead.” Then they ran off into the night toward the far doors and didn’t return. I assumed they were good.
And so was I. It’s time for the Teen Canteens. It’s time for the drop-offs. It’s time for wondering whether he needs a cell phone and for buying him a watch with an alarm on it so I no longer have to wake up “Frankenteen” on school days. Maybe I don’t dread the teen years because it took us an extra school year to get here. Or maybe it’s just high time for the next stage, the years where I sit in the school parking lot staring at the far doors for just a moment too long before deciding to leave.
When I told a friend of mine that Nicholas is nearing his thirteenth birthday, she warned, “Oh, my son turned on a dime pretty much days before he hit 13.” Her normally sweet boy quickly became a sullen teen, and the dynamic of their relationship changed until he got older and more agreeable. She talked to him, and he grunted back, if she was lucky.
I hear these horror stories of good teens gone bad, of the hormones holding the house hostage, of the sunshine of your life raining on your parade, blah, blah, blah. Maybe it will happen to him, to us. Maybe not. I know I put my mother through a year of hell when I was 14, but my brother sailed through his teen years with little fuss. You never know. All I know for sure is that at least I’m not following school buses anymore.