Teenagers and One-Way Streets



We drove up to the oral surgeon’s office.  I gathered my things and got out of the car.  I got all the way to the office door before realizing my son wasn’t trailing behind me. He was still sitting in the car.  I could see him taking off his sweatshirt and gathering up his own things but he was in slow motion which I very much understood.

 I gave him a few more moments before I went to check him in.  When he joined me, he was upset he’d forgotten his earbuds.  Music was going to transport him away- to wherever rappers hung out.  But recently I’ve realized when he is at his worst, he is also at his most anxious- which made two of us.
Earbuds or no earbuds, he was going in. The doctor assured the both of us he would be fine and well looked after.  I put in my own imaginary earbuds and opened the book I’d brought with me. How I hated handing over my children for things they surely would find painful or uncomfortable.  The first day of a new daycare, a shot at the pediatrician’s office; all of it made little pieces of my heart break off.  I know these things are for their own good but it’s still hard.
 The first time I handed over my newborn to the nurse, it was because his umbilical cord was still stubbornly attached and they felt they needed to remove it.  I seriously felt faint.  “Cauterize.”  The word just sounded horrible.  I handed him over and stepped into the hall.  I listened to his “white cry” (I’d named his cries-white was for pain) and I cried too.  Eighteen years later and here we are-yet another doctor’s office.
The intervening eighteen years have been so fast.  Lightning fast.  It’s hard to believe he’s standing on the cusp of adulthood. Two more weeks between me and tattoo parlors, joining the military, signing contracts, and getting married legally (I would just drop dead if he came home married. Get all the tattoos you want, Buddy, save marriage for another decade).
When his surgery was all done, I was invited back to join him.  Now for anyone that has ever raised a child, you know how a teen can look at you.  Eyes hooded, barely looking you in the eye.  Body language guarded.  We have been living this dream for a few years in this house.  I missed my son in his younger years.  Climbing into bed for a snuggle, this perfect little face looking up at me, trusting what I had to say.  And smiling.  Where did all the smiles go?
Having a teenager is like driving down the street and finding out it’s a one way.  Yesterday it was a perfectly normal side street. Traffic went in both directions.  You panic, pull over, turn around, hoping you don’t get killed or kill anyone else and get out. Everything about a teenager screams one way.

 “Where are you going?”

 “Out.”

“What are you doing?”

“Nothing”

“Who are you meeting?”

“No one.”

“What movie are you going to see?”

“I don’t know.”

“What colleges should we look at?”

“I don’t know.”

 You get the idea.
Sam was given a combination of laughing gas and novocaine.  We’d decided against full-on anesthesia and rejected novocaine only as unnecessarily barbaric.

Laughing gas is bad, evil, addictive, neuron-killing, brain damaging, and to be avoided unless you are getting your wisdom teeth out.  Because when he had laughing gas, his smile was as wide as when he was six years old- and he has a beautiful smile (orthodontist approved).  His gorgeous green eyes were wide open and trusting when he was looking at me. (Me!)  It was a two-way street again.  He was funny.  I was even funny.  I asked questions and he answered. Louis Armstrong even showed up singing, “It’s a Wonderful World”, birds were chirping, and the sun was out.

And I thought, “Oh thank God, he is still in there.”  He’s just a teenager after all. I think he might have gotten a little lost in all those one-way streets too.  It happens.  Being a teenager is hard. But being a mother of a teenager might be even harder. But I’ll be here. Waiting for those streets to open up again.
Jennifer Dziekan
Jennifer lives in New England with her husband and three children. She spent four of her college years in Maine and loves Corea, Maine more than chocolate cake. A former ex-pat, she spent three years living in Switzerland where she made sense of her experience by writing about it. A background in education, she has written for Grown and Flown and is a contributing writer for Mothering Matters, an online magazine based in Switzerland. More of her blog can be found at Weaving In and Out.
Jennifer Dziekan

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