I think the last time Thirteen listened to direction or offered me unforced affection was probably when he was still in the single digits. I loved when he would call me Mama and when he actually enjoyed sitting with me. When I smothered him with, “I love yous” he always happily returned the love and sentiment. Long gone are the days when I didn't have to wrestle him just to get a smooch. Anything that began with, "Could you please..." was met with very little resistance (if any at all). And when we were together and I started a discussion, his little lispy self eagerly participated. We talked about Spider Man and the Green Goblin, or which suit jacket he wanted to wear with which costume, who his friends were and what they did together or whether he wanted liverwurst or fried bologna for lunch (back when he still ate on his plastic superheroes plates. Awww....).
These days, there are maybe three things he says to me, and two of them are requests: "Jill, can we go to GameStop?" or, "Can you make me Ramen?" (And, um, yeah, I don't know what's with the "Jill" thing. Apparently, he thinks he is now an adult conversing with someone other than the person who dragged around an extra 70 pounds to carry, nourish and give birth to his large-ass baby self). And the third thing - his favorite thing - is to say no to anything and everything I request or say like, “Please brush your teeth, boy.” He makes no bones about his answer: no hesitance before compliance, no annoyed look - simply, NO. And that's written in capitals because if the words took shape as they left his mouth, they would be in capitals (36 point font, bolded and italicized, too).
Once in awhile I try to put that fucker into place, but he's been testing out his man-voice and his man-size on me and, unfortunately, I can't set him straight that easily. He's got about 7 inches in height on me and about 60 pounds of weight and even though he's still my kid, he manages to use that to his advantage. I think he thinks he can at the least shut me up but shutting me up ain’t ever gonna happen (for the record, it's nearly impossible).
But I, Ol' Forty-One, have always been a softie no matter how hard I try to lay down the law. I usually (and stupidly) relent and just do things myself. I also grudgingly accepted that the love he gave so freely as a little boy would never be given freely again.
A few weeks ago, right before he turned "Fourteen," my tough-ass boy surprised me. I had just gotten home with Princess Nine and he called out to me.
Concerned that he wasn’t referring to me by name, as was his newest preference, I stopped in my tracks. And it wasn’t “MA!” either. It was a sweet, mommy.
Ol’ Forty-One: "What do you want?"
Fourteen: "Come watch Harry Potter with me."
I am typically banned from his man-child cave unless bearing food or money, so the shock of the invitation (and the delivery of said invitation), and the fact that I had neither viddles nor green on my person, sent me running with a fire under my feet. He was on his bed getting ready to watch one of the HP movies and when I went to him, he made room for me on his bed.
Now the moment the blur of my racing body passed Princess Nine, quick footsteps followed me into his room.
Nine: “Mama, I waaaaaant you.”
She's not one to stand for any inattentiveness on my part.
Forty-One: “Sorry, kid. Brother has beckoned.”
Arguing, appeasing, and bribing moments later, we three were settled. Nine with one of her girly fashion books, me next to Fourteen and Almost Four even got in on the act and tried to fit her puppy self on the bed, too.
But the love didn’t end there.
Imagine my disbelief when Fourteen held my hand and kind of cuddled up next to his little old Ma. By the look of death in her eyes, I knew Nine wasn’t thrilled , but I was. For all his tough-boy, hormonal bullshit, for all his bad-ass non-compliance, for all his whatever elses, it made me realize that no matter what happens, he still loves Ol’ Forty One and needs to show it once in awhile.
And oh, Man-Child, how I love thee, too.