My child’s teenage years have given me lessons I did not expect.
For one, I had no idea that most of my time would be spent feeding an ever-growing human being who apparently was never full.
I need a GoFund Me just to cover my grocery bill.
He can eat vast amounts of food and still be hungry.
At the same time he professes to be near starvation, he does not want anything that is currently in the pantry or fridge.
“There’s plenty to eat,” I will tell him, running down a list that includes pasta and burritos among the possibilities.
He shakes his head. Dairy Queen and Taco Bell were not offered so he may very well starve.
Thankfully, the child gets hungry; otherwise, I wonder if he would have a reason to emerge from playing Fortnite.
Besides the constant feedings, teenage years have brought some angst, more on my part than his.
Gone are the days where it seems like I am the center of his world.
He has pulled back just ever so slightly, finding independence, forming his own opinions that sometimes differ from mine.
He’s growing up.
I am glad to see him making these steps even if it feels like I am having my heart torn out at the same time.
I still remember the little boy who wanted to be walked to his class while holding my hand, giving a kiss in the center of my palm to “take with me.”
The little boy who never wanted me out of his sight.
To me, in my heart, he will always be that little boy with the blonde hair and cherubic cheeks that called his mama his “sweet girl” and loved me more than he did Piggie.
But now, he is a young man, and doesn’t need Mama quite as much.
It has been a hard transition.
My pastor asked me just a little over a week ago how school was going. I told her he was in 8th grade; she gave me a sympathetic sigh that only mamas can understand.
“8th grade is tough,” she said. “But Cole is a good kid.”
I agreed. He is.
Overall, he is a great kid. That’s not saying he’s perfect; he can be moody and mouthy at times. But, considering how moody and mouthy I was at his age, he is practically a saint.
When I was 13, I heard my own Mama mutter, “This is why animals eat their young” more times than I can count.
I pushed every boundary button with her I could and somehow both of us survived even though in retrospect, I admit I was a total brat.
And now, I am extremely cognizant of how parenting can be one of the most painful things we do.
We lose sleep, sacrifice things we need for things they want.
We change our lives for a tiny, little person and literally move mountains that need to be moved to give them everything to make their life better.
And after years of nurturing, loving and sacrificing, they become teenagers who no longer need us quite like they did before.
It feels like your heart has been yanked out of your chest and tap danced on.
I think the feeling unneeded is what hurts worse than anything.
Thirteen has been the year he has pushed away from me, the year I started to feel obsolete. As he creeps closer to the edge of 14, I have feared he will pull away even more.
Will he just get to where he doesn’t need me at all?
“Boys always love and need their mom,” my pastor promised, giving me a squeeze.
I hoped she was right; it didn’t feel that way sometimes.
Feeling this ache prompted me to make sure my own Mama felt like she was still needed and appreciated.
“Boys do always love their mom,” she said. “I’d like to think daughters do, too.”
“They do,” I said.
“Just remember, Kitten, it’s good to always let folks know you appreciate them. Even if it is your dear old mama. Or your child. Maybe Cole feels like you think he has changed so much since he’s become a teenager, he doesn’t know how to talk to you anymore.”
Was that it? Surely not. I mean, what does my Mama know about a teenager suddenly acting like they don’t need their parents?
As I thought all of this over, I realized it had been an hour since my child had ate, so I made him a sandwich just the way he liked it and took it to him while he played his video game.
“How did you know I was starving?” he asked, taking the plate.
“Just thought you may be hungry,” I said, retreating from the room but not before I overheard him talking to his friend online.
“Man, my mom just brought me a sandwich. Gimme a second, I gotta eat. She makes the best sandwiches. Yeah. My mom is amazing.”
Maybe everyone was right; boys do always love their moms. And maybe I don’t have to wait until he fully grows up to learn that.