I Hide My Chocolate

Midlife observations

Tag: Teen Boys

Too Old To Dress Up

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Being Someone Else

“Hey Mom, maybe I’ll just wear some vampire teeth. Mr. C said he would be disappointed if I didn’t dress up.”

My son lets this announcement drop so quietly I could have missed it.

At 16, he is self-conscious and wants to fit in and be cool. Even though, secretly, I know he loves Halloween and dressing up. Well, we can’t disappoint Mr. C! Off we go to find some vampire teeth. (And maybe a cape? And maybe some makeup?)

As a little boy, he would dash from house to house shrieking with delight and dressed up (memorably) as Thomas the Train, Indiana Jones, or Captain Jack Sparrow. I would put all kinds of glow-in-the-dark devices on him, terrified of cars, but there was no stopping him. And who could blame him? A child let loose at twilight, allowed to be someone else, with unlimited candy! What could be more thrilling?

But then the shift happens.

“I don’t think I’ll go trick-or-treating. Maybe I’ll just decorate the house this year.” This announcement dropped like a thud about 4 years ago. We got the sticky, stretchy cobweb stuff for your bushes, a giant mechanical spider that drops down in an alarming way, a very cool fog machine, and a few other tacky and extravagant knick knacks that spend 50 weeks a year in the attic.

The following year it was, “I think I’ll just pass out the candy this year.”

Slowly the willingness to put yourself out there with enthusiastic and ridiculous abandon diminishes. I am no help. I used to love dressing up but now am too busy busy busy to be bothered. Halloween becomes another chore. Decorate. Undecorate. Buy candy. Figure out costumes. There was the year I spent all weekend laboriously crafting a handmade costume for my 2 year old daughter, when all she really wanted was to hang out with me. Do we really need to carve a pumpkin? My husband used to create the most fabulous carved pumpkins, inspired by the kids’ drawings. What happened?

Oh and to state the obvious: A holiday devoted to excessive amounts of candy is a nightmare for someone with eating issues. I used to binge on Halloween candy. Enough to make anyone hate candy for the rest of their life. Here is a useful tip for those of you who haven’t mastered this trick. Convince yourself you hate a food item and then it will become easier to avoid eating it. I HATE HALLOWEEN CANDY! Um, that’s not entirely true. I actually like Reese’s Peanut Butter cups and allow myself about 1 on Halloween. Maybe 2.

I digress.

So when that casual nonchalant comment about dressing up this year dropped in my ear so quietly I almost missed it, I jumped at the chance to reignite my son’s childhood love of Halloween as he transitions through murky adolescence. Maybe he will even go trick-or-treating! I can just see them. A few gangly 16-year-olds, towering over their childish counterparts. They probably won’t be wearing elaborate costumes. Their “trick-or-treat” will come from newly deep voices. They may have a bit of scrubble on their faces. No longer children. Not quite men.

Thank you Mr. C for giving my son permission to dress up for Halloween.

Rules of the Road


Sweet 16

My son turned 16 earlier this month. A milestone year. For all concerned. I wanted to honor it appropriately, but there is no “sweet 16” tradition for the boys. When I went to pick out a greeting card, there was a shelf devoted to pink and frilly cards for girls turning 16 but nothing for the boys. Nothing. I was so annoyed, I left the store empty handed. Resentful of overpriced greeting cards, I am regularly disgusted with the dearth of cards for boys and men. I should boycott the whole greeting card thing, but I love presenting a loved one with a meaningful card. It seems that only women are the target audience for greeting cards. The ones for men swing between the extremes of crude (Beer and Boobs!) and earnest (“Son, we are so proud.”) I am particularly DONE with cards for “Husband” that show a silhouette of a young man and a young woman, perhaps with a baby. Ummm. Been there done that. A long time ago. I don’t see myself or my husband or my son in these cards.

I went back to the overpriced card store a few days later, still annoyed. (Papyrus. I hate it. Who pays $8.99 for a greeting card! Oh. Wait. I do.) I was drawn to the juvenile section with its simple and bright designs. The completely adorable pirate hat reminded me of his 5th birthday when pirates were the theme. Nostalgic, I bought it. I reread the earnest “Son, we are so proud” card. Maybe it’s not so hokey. Proud of him, I bought it. But the card I probably should have gotten was the race car card.   Driving. Sixteen. Rite of Passage. Here we go!

My son and I are deeply bonded. There is a connection between us that is so strong it takes my breath away. But over the past year, he has increased the separation between us. As he should. Spending time with friends, asserting his differences from me, aligning with my husband, his dad. Besides, I regularly fall into the role of nagging mom, so why wouldn’t he want to move far away from that? Clearly, we will need to carve out new ways to be with each other as he grows older.

I remember teaching my daughter to drive, several years ago. She too had been moving away from me. But these hugely significant growing up activities, like learning to drive and choosing a college, bring them back. Excited to separate, but kind of scared, they tuck right back into the safe embrace of home.

Every weekend we had our driving time together. In the beginning, it was rocky and terrifying. White knuckled, I would exclaim: Watch out for the car! You are too close to the curb! Slow down! But gradually, we moved from the empty parking lot, to the quiet neighborhood, to the slower side streets. She gained confidence and skills. We developed a little routine for our Sunday drives, jaunting over to the next town or two or three, stopping for a coffee or some other treat. And talking. There is something about being in the car together that facilitates conversation. The bond had loosened, so that it could change.  Through our driving times, it reintegrated. At a more mature level.

By the time she got her license, a year had passed and she was 17. A lot of maturing happens in a year at that age. She was ready. Of course, letting her get into that car and drive alone was terrifying to me. And, frankly, it marked a huge step toward independence. Getting in that car. Alone. Leading her life. I missed our Sunday driving sessions. I missed her.   As a parent, you want to protect them and keep them safe forever. But they have to lead their lives, make their own mistakes. You just pray that they don’t die in the process. And cars are scary. Terrifying. Mass * Velocity = Potentially Fatal Accident.

Nagging mother that I am, I told my son, I will take you to get your learner’s permit as soon as you turn 16, but you better study the manual and do the practice tests. You can get a crummy grade in math, but you can’t get a crummy grade in driving. Your life is at stake.

As the day got closer, he took it more and more seriously. So did I. He took the practice tests. We reviewed the questions he got wrong. When we drove somewhere, I talked through all the rules and choices I was making as I drove, suddenly aware of the multiple nuanced calculations one mindlessly makes when one drives. I quizzed him on the rules of the road. He assured me that he knew them.  “Don’t worry Mom, I know the rites of passage.” I smiled. He meant rules of the road, but – as usual – I liked his way of saying it better. Indeed he does know the rites of passage.

And the rules of the road. He passed.

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