Age 14 marks the end of childhood

  • By Debra-Lynn B. Hook McClatchy-Tribune News Service
  • Friday, March 30, 2012 6:59pm
  • Life

A lot of people think they have to pay to be entertained. When you’re the mother of a 14-year-old boy, you know entertainment is as close as the living room couch where the aforementioned is agonizing over Shakespeare for English class. 

“So, Mom,” he says.

“Uh-huh,” you answer from the other end of the couch.

“Did I tell you about the man who went to the psychiatrist because he thinks he’s a dog?”

“Is this man/dog in ‘The Tempest’ you’re supposed to be analyzing?”

“Funny, Mom. Ha ha,” he says.

“So the man goes to the psychiatrist, and the psychiatrist tells the man to lie down and tell him about it. And the man says, “I can’t lie down. I’m not allowed on the couch.”

This is so corny, it’s funny. Which means you laugh out loud. Which, of course, eggs him on.

“So, Mom, do you think I can make this blackberry seed go in that cup on the table?”

“No,” you say, because you know that’s what he wants you to say.

He shoots. He scores.

“Wow,” you say.

“So Mom, do you wanna hear this Coldplay song?”

“OK, but then you HAVE to get back to ‘The Tempest’.”

He plays a YouTube version of “Paradise,” bouncing all over the couch and singing with Chris Martin, and when it’s over, he types feverishly on his laptop for a solid few minutes.

While he types, you take note that the freckles on his face have become more prominent with the early spring sun. Also, that he has a sock on only one foot.

That foot, those freckles — they’re turning 15 in three weeks, you think. And you can’t help it: You don’t like it. You remember from the other two. Fourteen is advanced childhood. Fifteen is early adulthood. Fourteens ride bicycles. Fifteens drive, God forbid, Mom’s car. Fourteen-year-olds show up in the paper in trouble, and people say, “Poor little dude. He must have lost his mommy.” Fifteen-year-olds show up, and it’s, “Punk. Send him up the river.”

“So Mom, if you buy a house, do you actually own it?”

“Benjie.” I give him the look and point to his laptop. 

This look won’t work much longer.

It doesn’t work now.

“Mom, I’m so sad. I hate homework. Why does homework have to be invented? We work enough every day. I’m going to take a one-minute chill.” And with that, he falls over onto the couch, and feigns sleep.

His head lands close to your hand. Fourteen-year-old boys let their moms stroke their hair. Fifteen-year-olds growl if you even suggest their hair might look better a little longer/shorter/curlier in back.

And you are reminded of a day some 20 years ago, when his brother, your first child and the one who’s gone now, was 3 and he heard you say something about not having enough hours in the day.

Apparently, he saw you set the clocks back for Daylight Savings Time because he came up with the best if-only answer: “I know, Mom! We can change the clocks back!” 

You wished it were possible then.

You might wish it even more now.

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