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Posts Tagged ‘Homecoming’

My baby turns Thirteen tomorrow. He was almost two weeks late and beat the East Coast/Midwest Blackout by two hours. He was born purple, his umbilical cord tied in a knot and wrapped around his neck twice, but recovering immediately. He wanted his mama from the first moment and stays close to this day, but not too close. That would be completely uncool. I’m really not ready for this next stage, but it’s not my rodeo. Well, it kind of is. He is my son, after all, but the experience of becoming a teenager is his and his alone.

Thirteen has been seen as a rite of passage for a long time in many cultures, marked with parties, bar and bay mitzvahs, a step toward young adulthood, but also a time of confusion. Body changes, pressure to do well, and the desire to prove oneself can make turning thirteen more difficult than it needs to be.

I remember Thirteen and it wasn’t that great of a year, but then it was also a year where some exciting things happened. I remember being really jazzed to become a teenager. I have a late birthday and was always one of the youngest ones in my class, so turning thirteen and catching up with my friends was something that couldn’t come soon enough for me. I wish that I had had the gift of hindsight back then, to see that Thirteen was not all it’s cracked up to be. I still wasn’t an adult, much to my dismay, and I still had a LOT to learn.

It was during that year that I made the colossal mistake of calling one of my friends a bitch, and not even to her face, but in a note to a mutual friend. I wasn’t quite that brave and it was my first stab at speaking my mind. I didn’t even write out the whole word. If I remember correctly, I wrote, “B_T_H.”. In fairness, as I look back, she kind of deserved it, but that was not the best decision I ever made. Of course, I was ratted out by the mutual friend and popular opinion rained down on me for the rest of 8th grade, only letting up when we went to different high schools the next year. I learned a hard, valuable, lesson on social niceties and never wrote anything like that ever again.

Thirteen was also the year when I fell in love with the discipline and opportunities in marching band. I am a proud band geek, through and through. Thirteen was my first year of Band Camp, and it will be for Youngest Child, too, next summer. Band Camp was definitely a rite of passage. I had always loved music, I still do, but the late nights, early mornings, sweat, aches, heat, and sky-high diving platforms into the lake made me confident in my abilities. I met new, life-long friends (“Hi, I’m George.” “I’m Ringo.” “I’m Paul.” “I’m John. I’m dead.”) who knew nothing about the “bitch” incident and when they did find out, didn’t care. I found people who didn’t think I was weird, people who I fit in with. I was lucky that way. I loved everything about Band Camp and marching band and still do, even all these years later. I’m so glad that my boys have been through band and it makes me smile to see those friendships continue to grow.

Thirteen saw my first “real” boyfriend, whom I took to my first Homecoming Dance, and I am still friends with him to this day. I won’t elaborate too much, but it was an exciting time for me and that experience began teaching me how to gauge and handle future relationships in a good way. I always expected the respect that I was given with that first dating experience. I don’t like to think of Youngest Child dating at the moment, but the Italian mama in me does want him to find a nice girl someday.

Thirteen allows you to start forming the person that you will eventually be. That wonderful new ability to think abstractly makes you question ideas and beliefs that you’ve always had, in both good and bad ways. Boundaries are pushed, limits are tested, and while it drives parents crazy, it’s actually a good thing. It’s good practice for making adult decisions one day. As for parents, Thirteen means we can’t be with them every second, we shouldn’t be, and that we have to trust that they will make the good choices. Sometimes they won’t, and that part really sucks because we think we failed, but it helps to breathe deeply and to keep going. (A nice glass of wine at the end of the day doesn’t hurt, either.) Every day is a new day, a fresh day, and they need to know that. They need to know that they are loved, mistakes and all, and that we are the people they can count on, even if we overreact at first. We’re both going to screw up, parents and Thirteen, and if we understand that from the get-go, it’ll be easier to forgive ourselves and each other when it happens.

I hope that Thirteen is kind to my boy. He’s been through some storms this past year and I think we’re on the right track, but Thirteen can be tricky. I want him to be happy, but I want him to choose wisely. There’s  a reason why Thirteen was celebrated as a rite of passage; you’re not a little kid anymore and people really start to hold you responsible for your actions. People can eye teenagers with distaste and suspicion, myself included, and sometimes with good reason. Teenagers can be horribly obnoxious and even threatening. There’s something about the infusion of hormones, I think, that entices you to do stupid things sometimes. (Getting kicked out of JC Penney in Southland for jumping on the elevator rings a bell. Group mentality.) It isn’t fair, to be sure, especially to the kids who are amazing, like Oldest and Middle Children’s friends, but it remains and that’s something that Youngest Child will encounter as he turns Thirteen.

What do I wish for Youngest Child this year? I wish him wisdom. I wish him grace. I wish him some of the best memories he’ll ever make, and the friends to make them with. I wish him the fortitude to withstand peer pressure and to remember what we’ve taught him. I wish him love and acceptance. I wish him love. I wish him love. I wish him love.

In the meantime, I now have three teenagers and will appreciate all prayers and good thoughts.

Happy Birthday, Youngest Child. It’s gonna be great.

 

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I sent two boys to the Homecoming dance this last Saturday. For Oldest Son, it was his third year going and for Middle Son, it was his first. Of course, they went with to different groups, so picture-taking beforehand was a bit sticky. I did make it to both in time to take tons of pictures, but the contrast between the two groups was so intriguing that I wanted to try and describe it.

Oldest Son’s group has been together for years. It’s a humongous group. They eat and move as a unit, moving from class, to band, to theatre seamlessly, with perpetual, fluid, motion. They text and visit constantly, young men and young ladies both, sharing world views, philosophies, and countless doughnut runs. I admire them. There is a tight-knit core group with others who pop in and out along the way. Unable to get out of work most times, I watch from a distance, occasionally chauffeuring to the movies or other outings, too awkward and stilted to really join in with them, like some of the other moms do. But, I ardently admire their youth, their optimism, their opportunities that are now arising as they prepare to leave for college next August. Most of them are spreading their wings for far-off places, but I believe that they will keep in touch for a long time. I hope they do. They’re wonderful kids with good grades and good families. These are things that I’ve observed in the years that I’ve stood in the background, loving to watch them as they grow and change.

They looked stunning, the girls in a variety of dresses from long and formal to short an cute. Oldest Son’s date wore a dress that I could have possibly chose, although her shoes, adorable on her, would have killed me. The hair was spectacular: curls, up dos, and sparkly-things ran rampant. The boys were handsome in their suits and ties, some all cleaned up from the muddy cross-country meet that morning and ready to go out on the town. This is the most organized, self-sufficient, group I have ever seen, although my best friend from high school, Jenny, would have given them a run for their money.

Middle Son’s group at Homecoming was a mix of old and new friends. While Oldest Son’s group has always been a close, co-ed, group, Middle Son has always run with the boys. He didn’t go to Homecoming last year and only made the decision to ask a friend of his a couple of weeks before the dance. She was already going with a group of girls and a dress had already been purchased, so no fashion worries there. That was my first concern when he told me that he was going to ask her. “Girls need time!” I protested, answered by an eye roll. We went suit shopping six days before the dance, since he hadn’t worn one in, well, ever. It all worked out fine, though, especially since his date’s parents made the first move and we helped them get organized. Flowers were ordered, her father drove them to all of their stops that night, and a few sets of parents had dinner at the same place as the group, a local casual diner in town. The group of six seemed to get on well together at their separate table, talking, laughing, and texting in their fancy party clothes, having fun, but in a different way than the senior group. While they got along in a way that exuded old familiarity, this group was testing it out. It was so interesting to see the differences. We adults got along well, too. We had known one of the couples since Middle Son was in preschool and Marty knew one of the other mothers from when they were in high school together. It was really a pleasant evening and I’m glad I forced my introverted self to do it. The kids went on to the dance and we took Youngest Son home to revel in being the only child for the night.

That night was bittersweet and emotional. My boys are growing up and it showed. One is gone in a matter of months, the other in less than three years. My babies that I used to delight in scooping up and cuddling have turned into strong young men in suits who are thisclose to embarking on their on life journeys without Marty and me. I hate this part and I love this part. I love their independence and I hate their independence. I love them. And their friends.

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