My husband and I passed another milestone this month. Now, instead of spending all our energy sheltering our oldest child from the world, we're sheltering the world from him. Instead of protecting our son from strangers, we're protecting him from himself.
Yes. Exactly. He's a teenager now. The big 13. Overnight he went from docile, baby-faced preteen to moody genius with one armpit hair.
Time has a way of torturing me in a manner I never could have guessed. My gosh, I'm old enough to have a teenager, which means that soon I'll be old enough to have a child in college, then a kid getting married, and in a short time (I'm feeling light headed here) grandchildren. I'm too young to have grandchildren!
To make my worries worse, my husband came to the dinner table, feeling his own clock racing and had the nerve to vocalize, "You know, the next 10 years are the most important ones in our lives. They'll all four (pointing to the kids) be gone or leaving by the end of it."
And the fish will be dead and the dog will be on her last leg and our cat won't have many days remaining and our house will be as quiet as a mausoleum and we'll be decrepit enough to be kept in one, my mind raced.
"How's your steak look?" he asked.
Seeing my opportunity to derail the current discussion thread, I turned my plate and studied my slab of meat from all angles. "For the most part, it looks like a fish. There's its eye," I pointed with a fork tong. "And right here's its mouth. And this part has the shape of a tail."
"Just cut into it and tell me what you think," he ordered, agitated from the weight of the next 10 years on his shoulders.
The wet-behind-the-ears, know-it-all teen piped up, "I'll be 23 in 10 years. I won't even live with y'all anymore."
In response to his ill-timed revelation, I stabbed my steak with my fork, stroked my knife across it, sliced off a bite, and told the chef what I thought. "I think we need to concentrate on enjoying the present moment and that we should refrain from math at the dinner table and I'm glad for such wonderful company to share a meal with and I think I'll let the kids clean the kitchen tonight and I'll go relax in the tub with my book and I think . . ." He cut off my shenanigans designed to avoid more serious subjects. "Is it too rare?"
Although I detected his patience and sense of humor slipping away, I replied, "Steak around here is much too rare."
He chewed in silence, making purposeful motions with his mouth, staring at me staring at him. "You really need to buckle down and get serious," he told me. "We're entering critical years here. Our last chance to shape our children, to help them discover and become the best people they can be. Months, days, hours are slipping through our fingers while you play head games with me."
Finally he got up the nerve to ask, "How's your onion?"
I peeled the foil back from my sweet Vidalia and let the juices run onto my plate. Then I leaned my ear down close to it. Says it's mighty fine," I winked.
Getting me to focus on my fear of the future is about as hard as pulling hen's teeth. But, believe me, I'm holding on tightly, because, ready or not, here comes the rest of my life.
(Lucy Adams is a Columbia County native and McDuffie County resident, and author of If Mama Don't Laugh, It Ain't Funny. E-mail comments to email@example.com, or go to www.ifmama.com.)
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