Sunday, January 14, 2007

Parenthood Is Hell: Reason 2,796

I have a confession: I've sunk to new lows in motherhood. I eavesdropped on my son's phone conversation, breaking every vow I'd made to respect his privacy. I have an excuse, however lame it might be; maybe mothers of teenaged sons will understand. Because Daniel's an only child and for several years, it was just the two of us, we've always been very close. I got used to him confiding in me and talking about his dreams and fears pretty openly.

The past couple of years, though, he's turned into a clam. We still talked about a lot of things, but he wasn't as forthcoming with his feelings. I knew this change was normal and somewhat inevitable, and I've tried not to pry, even though it killed me sometimes not to ask questions. I've learned new tactics to draw him out a little; for example, I tell him how out of place I felt sometimes in high school if I suspect he's worrying about not having a slew of friends. I try to pick good moments, when he's relaxed and the timing seems right, and I try to let him know I'm capable of listening without freaking out or judging him. It's so hard, though. God, all the times I worried myself sick about his eating habits or potty training or socialization--they were nothing compared to the hell of suspecting something's wrong and not being able to do a damn thing about it. Sometimes I want to shake him and say "Just tell me what's wrong! I can make it better!" And of course I can't. I can offer advice, I can empathize, I can comfort, but I can't fix his problems for him. I've lost the power to heal his hurts instantly with just a kiss.

So the conversation I overheard . . . I didn't intend to listen; I was here in my office, and Daniel was in the living room on the phone, but when I heard him mention a girl, my ears suddenly went on red alert. I've had a feeling for a few months that a girl might be at the root of his moodiness. Also, he suddenly stopped eating junk and took up exercising, and he's lost 16 pounds. He's mentioned this girl on his Brain Game team fairly often, too.

Last week, I started getting more worried about him. He kept complaining about his stomach hurting, and he's barely been eating. He's been edgy and staring into space and not acting like himself at all. I thought he might simply be nervous about the Brain Game match being televised last Wednesday, but his symptoms persisted after the match was over.

Well, I have my answer now: Daniel told his friend he's planning to ask a girl to prom, and he's been trying to find the right moment and work up the nerve to ask her. I overheard him say "I'm happy all day if I just get a chance to talk to her." I think my boy is smitten.

Now I'm as nervous as Daniel is, if not more so. He better hurry up and ask her soon because I can't take the uncertainty much longer! I'm agonizing over how she's going to respond, too. If she turns him down and breaks his heart, it's going to take every ounce of self-restraint I have not to hunt her down and ask if she has any idea what she's missing out on. Gah! Now I have to add romance ups and downs to the list of parental worries? I might have to take up heavy drinking or pharmaceutical aids to withstand the angst and drama.