Today is a good a time as any, the last day of your seventh grade year, to get clear on a few things.
I’d like to let you know that I know that you know that as you get taller and your voice deepens in that freaky what-have-you-done-with-my-baby way and your feet stretch the limits of existing men’s shoe sizes, that at the same time, and in an almost magic inverse proportion, my intellect and my ability to complete even simple tasks without mortifying you appears to decrease. I know this.
I know that you can use the words “cocksucker” and “vajayjay” correctly in a sentence if necessary and that you and your friends swear like sailors. I know that you know about porn and wet dreams and masturbation and the growing transgender youth movement and how and where semen is made in the body and what exactly the prostate gland is. I know that the eighth grade girls consider you a person of interest and that even though they baffle you, with their weird shape-shifting from the frank, no-nonsense seven-year-olds you met all those years ago to these mysterious long-legged, glossy-haired sort-of-women, they mesmerize you, too, and that you really, really, really don’t want to discuss that with me.
I know that what you think of as my world, the World of Mom, is feeling more often cramped and stifling, while in contrast the World of Dad keeps getting more fascinating and expansive. I know that you crave your dad’s attention and delight in the apparently never-ending opportunities to watch some sort of sports event – soccer, golf, hockey, ping-pong, whatever — on the couch with him, making guttural noises when scoring is imminent. I know you observe your father carefully, studying who he is and what he says and how he acts and looks, taking notes in your head for later reference. I know that secretly you think you could kick his ass and that you’re wrong, but just barely.
Oh darling Smarty-Pants, I know you’re on FaceTime with your friends much more than you cop to and that you don’t always sign out of Netflix on your iPod when I ask. I know that you think I’m overprotective and that the pay-as-you-go Tracfone I bought you for emergencies is just wrong, in so many ways. I know you wish Dad would take you and your friends to screen Man of Steel next weekend instead of me, but that’s just too bad because I want to see it too, and besides, I’ll let you get candy and Dad won’t.
What I hope you don’t know is that I’m terrified of the task of parenting you through these next five years or so, that I’m convinced you’ll eventually cut yourself free of me completely and the closeness we’ve had up until now will be gone forever, that often I’m more scared of the grief and exhileration I feel as you grow and change and whatever illusion I’ve had that I can protect you is smashed to smithereens than I am of the dangers of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.
You know a lot, kid. But do you know that sometimes I look into your face, still soft around the edges with childhood, and I think I’ll probably die on the spot because you’re so beautiful, so alive? Do you know that no matter how stupid or embarrassing you think I get with each passing year, that I love you fiercely, Mr. Smarty-Pants, and there’s nothing you can do to change that?