It’s happening. Adam is growing and with it, a new attitude. Puberty is peeking through his ten-year-old countenance.
I realized this pre-pubescence more accutely yesterday when he emerged from school. Usually full of smiles at seeing me, he looked cross. “Daddy’s house!” he exclaimed. His dad and the nanny tell me that Adam often asks for mommy when I’m not around. On occasion, Adam will check to see where I am, and he seems reassured. It was new for me to hear this declaration. When he looked disappointed to see me, I felt a mix of rejection and giddiness at the same time. After all, Adam is a boy and I hoped there would come a time when he would want to be with the boys. A boy is supposed to want to identify with the males in his life. But what of me?
“Hi honey,” I laughed, bending down to kiss his cheek. Adam’s eyes were still serious and he didn’t lean in to my lips as he usually does. “Daddy’s house!” he said again.
“You don’t want mommy?” I asked, forcing myself to appear a confident mother. Adam was silent as the teacher and I chit-chatted as usual.
“I couldn’t believe it today,” she said, her eyes wide and proud. “It was like watching an adult Adam. He did everything that was asked of him.” She put his hand on Adam’s shoulder while he was listening and looking at my car. “At one point my sentences were so long, I thought he wouldn’t understand me, but he could follow everything.” I took in a long breath and half-smiled, grateful for her positive report and enthusiasm. I grabbed the handle of Adam’s small red rollaway suitcase he takes to school and handed it to him as he began walking away.
“Thanks so much,” I said to the teacher turning and waving, and then tuned in on Adam who was walking ahead of me to the car. “Hey Adam, do you want to call Daddy?”
“Yes,” he replied firmly.
We got in the car and I called his dad on the Bluetooth. “Adam said ‘daddy’s house’ when he got out of school,” I said, “so we’re calling you.” Adam listened to his father’s cheery ‘hey buddy’ voice, and Adam talked a little — phone conversations are difficult for Adam to respond to. Afterwards, he seemed content.
We arrived home and Adam washed his own hands and headed for the kitchen for his snack, all without my reminding. He had a piano lesson, and Grandma and Grandpa came for a visit. Every time I went downstairs to see how he was doing, though, he pointed to the door. “Go away!”
“Okay, okay!” I said, trying to be jolly but it was a put on. My kid doesn’t want me. What an ingrate…that little schnood! (a word of affection that was developed in my family years ago). My feathers were a little ruffled and I mumbled briefly. What did I do to him today? Nothing out of the ordinary happened. Is this what is to come? My thoughts were skipping all over. Never you mind, Adam. I’ve been here for you all along and no matter what you think, I’m always going to love you. Then I started Googling in search of what age boys start really wanting their fathers.
As much as we want our kids to want us in a divorced situation, I welcome Adam’s need for his dad and other members of his family. It’s a new kind of separation like watching a child graduate or leave the house for the first time. While I am celebrating Adam’s growing independence and associations, I feel that this breaking away is just the beginning, and I’m a little sad too.
Everyone always said to me while Adam grows up, “consider yourself lucky that your kid doesn’t talk back to you.” That was always difficult for me to reason, as I longed to hear Adam’s voice and more complex thoughts, or his yelling at me that he was going to visit his friends. Thanks to his typing and his growing verbal ability, this is slowly changing, but having him grow up is surprisingly challenging in a way I’ve neither experienced nor expected. Is it perhaps more challenging when we have to let more dependent children “go?” You’d think I’d be jumping for joy, and while I sort of am, I missed his need of me. All sorts of “separations” were running through my head — all good, natural and still, emotional.
I want Adam to feel safe to feel and express whatever he needs. To help Adam, I started talking about his dad at the dinner table, and he was very attentive.”Daddy is funny isn’t he, Adam,” I said. He looked me straight in the eye and smiled. “Yes both mom and dad really love you.” I kept talking about love while drawing raindrops and animals with Adam at the table after dinner.
At the end of the evening when everyone was gone, Adam looked in my face; his eyes regained their sparkle for me. Then, he leaned in to give me a kiss. We went through our usual wind-down routine in our quiet house — a shower, teeth-brushing, and I’ve helped Adam become more independent doing these basic things. He climbed into bed merrily in his p.j’s with the dogs on them, carrying a book on How To Draw Insects.
“Mockingbird,” he asked as he burrowed himself under the duvet. It’s a song I’ve been singing to him since he was a toddler. I turned off the lights, snuggled alongside him and started to sing softly.
He didn’t tell me to go away.