Tuesday, September 2, 2008

"Mom" is Not Another Word for "Friend"

By Melanie Lynne Hauser

I’ve been trying to catch up with my younger son, the one still in high school. For one more year. Then he'll be gone. Then I'll cry. A lot.

Anyway, while he's still here, I thought I'd, you know - talk to him. (I know, I know - what was I thinking?!) But he's so busy this senior year, and I'm busy, and my husband's busy, and it’s all good. Because if I wasn’t busy right now I’d be drinking.

However. Being busy means I’m worried that I’m not on my game, as a mom. So the other day, I did the unthinkable. I asked my son a question or two about his day.

Oh, the horror!

We had a little showdown about this. I asked — one too many times, it seemed — how school had been. I inquired about homework. I asked about his friends.

I received one-syllable answers to my questions, but I persisted anyway, looking for signs of drug use, alcohol consumption, tobacco stains on his fingers. There were none of these — thank God! — and I didn’t think there would be, but as a parent of teenagers I’m constantly told by the media & high school counselors that these things WILL happen to my children. Even though my children are the geekiest of the geeky, the nerdiest of the nerdy; computer & videogame & anime savants who still like to play “Cranium” with their friends on Saturday nights. Doesn’t matter. I’m told that all teenagers turn into drug abusers at some time in their lives. I, as a mother, am naturally anxious about this.

So I ask questions. So sue me.

My son got a little exasperated with me the other evening, though. I explained that lately, even though we’re all in the same house, I miss him. I miss him telling me about his day; I miss knowing every little thing going on in his life. I miss him because when he is here, he's always in his room or on the computer.

He frowned, but I could see that he almost understand what I was trying to say. But then he said, “But I hate it when you ask me stupid questions about, you know — stuff.”

“Stuff?”

“Yeah. Like when you come up to me on the computer, and I’m playing a game, and you ask me about it. Or if I’m watching a TV show and you want to know about a character in it.”

“But I’m interested — I’m interested in your life, I just want to know what you like and all…”

“But Mom,” he said. So patiently. “I don’t want you to be my friend.”

Ouch.

I didn’t know what to say to that. He didn’t want me to be his friend? He didn’t think I was hip and cool and someone he could just hang out with? Who did he think I was? My own mother??

Oh.

Yes, I guess he did.

Double ouch.

He further explained to me that it was OK to be his mom — and as such, he understood that I HAD to ask, on occasion, about school. But to show an interest in his hobbies, his passions, to pretend to be interested in his music — that wasn’t OK. In fact, it bordered on downright creepy.

“I don’t need you to be my friend. I just need you to be my mom,” he kept insisting.

But…but…

I want to be his friend. More importantly — I want him to be MY friend.

He's smart and funny and has terrific opinions about life. On the occasions when we do just sit around and talk about stuff — occasions which I know now never, ever to mention for fear of them never occurring again — I enjoy the hell out of him. I’m OK with the fact that he no longer needs me for everything. (Well, I’m not OK with that, but I’ve learned to suppress my despair.) I thought, though, that the pay off would be this smart, funny young man with which to share my life, my thoughts, the stupid things that happen during the day. A friend, in other words.

So when my son informed me he didn’t need a friend, he just needed a mom, I was a bit, you know — devastatingly crushed.

I guess we never stop being The Mom. On the one hand, that’s comforting. On the other, it’s demoralizing. Maybe it’s just too soon. Maybe my son is just in this place where he's not quite an adult, definitely not a child, and he's just starting to figure out his own place in this new world — he doesn't need to figure out my place in it, too.

I guess, like always, it’s my place to stand back, quietly accept my role, however disappointing, but be vigilant for any hopeful sign that he's changed. Constantly watching, as I always do, and I always have. Waiting for my chance to be his friend.

But until then, I’m The Mom. Forever and ever. Amen.

3 comments:

Amy Nathan said...

I can't think of a better thing to be! Your son sounds smart and sweet.

Remember, anyone can be his friend.

Only you can be his mom.

He seems to already know that.

Melanie Lynne Hauser said...

Well, he's smart, anyway....

Sometimes he's sweet.

But it's true. Teens need us to be their parents, not their friends. They have more than enough of those!

Barb McKone said...

Ohh Melanie, I'm right there with you. Actually, I'm two years behind you but I can see it coming. You brought a tear to the eye- and we can all see you are a great mom. Isn't it great that he knows he WANTS a mom? Be strong!! (and keep asking those questions anyway- you never know- one might actually get answered)