SEND THE BUBBLE WRAP ASAP

The other day I wrote about wanting to bubble wrap my not-quite-grown-up kid.  I am seriously considering duct taping a protective layer around him for real.

We have seen a parade of bad-to-horrible injuries over the last few months, reaching a crescendo this past week with a series of blown ACL’s, dislocated shoulders, badly broken legs and broken hands at the races Riley’s team attended.  Then we learned that a young freeskier from our community was severely injured in a training run for Nationals and airlifted to Denver.  My heart breaks for her and her family, and my stomach does flip-flops at the thought of something this horrible happening to our own “baby.”

The irony is that my son didn’t think to tell me about this.  He had signed a card for her, he knew that she was undergoing extensive surgery and HE DIDN’T EVEN MENTION IT to me.

What do I make of this?  What does it mean when such a horrific thing happens and it doesn’t bubble up from him?  Is this a defense mechanism, developed from years of putting himself in scary situations, of watching friends suffer terrible injuries, some life-ending?  From facing milder trauma himself and wondering not if but when something worse will happen?  Or is this a typical 17-year-old-male-ism:  Why would I tell my mom about something that happened to some girl I hardly knew?  More than likely it’s the latter.

And so it goes.  My mom-ness freaks out, his kid-ness says huge bummer.  My mom-ness empathizes and imagines what-if’s, his kid-ness moves on.

Last night, for no particular reason, we watched some old videos from his growing up years.  Lots of violin recitals, baseball games, Christmas programs and kindergarten graduation.  I felt very much like Chevy Chase, up in the attic, tears streaming.  Well, ok, tears didn’t stream because we were having too much fun laughing at his cousin, then age six, who was killing “stupid bears” in their fort, but you get the gist.

We parents don’t video the scary times, the trips to the ER, the struggles in school.  We don’t record what goes on underneath the smiling facade or the times when we cross our fingers and toes and pray that he stays safe.  Those memories and feelings are indelibly etched into the undocumented pages of our life stories.  Their weight is hefty enough to counterbalance the fun memories flitting across the screen.  We would rather our next generation not know their heft until he feels it soon enough with his own child.

So, I smile at him and my dear husband as we turn off the videos.  I give him a hug, silently grateful for the warmth in his body.  I tell him he is a gift.  I quietly say a prayer for all parents.  And then I bring out the bubble wrap …

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That Smile Said It All

Parents of teenage boys spend a fair amount of time as amateur detectives.  Since boys are less than forthcoming about everything a parent would like to know about their offspring. we have to look for clues.  Is he sleeping enough?  We’re looking for an unusual level of irritability and complete inability to get up in the morning.  Is school going ok?  Generally, the grunted responses to a parental inquiry on that topic don’t shed much light.  We’ve learned not to even waste our time asking about social goings-on, so we keep tabs on the volume of texts and chats that blow up his phone.

When our son went to Europe for a couple of weeks with his ski team to train this month, we were like all parents of teenage boys:  mostly in the dark.  This trip meant missed school and risk of illness and injury.  We wanted to know if it was going well.  He’s taken quite a few trips like this without us, so we’ve had a little practice on how to read the social media crumbs as to how things are going.  He was online 2 hours ago, so the flight must have landed.  He posted a picture on Instagram yesterday (not with any people in it, but still) . . . he must be eating and sleeping.  In fairness to our young progeny, he did message us on Facebook here and there, and we even got to see him on Skype once, so we weren’t completely out of the loop.

When it came time to pick him up at the airport, my husband and I were really looking forward to seeing him.   We like our boy, and we miss him when he’s not around.  We also know that he needs to find his way.  As he gains his independence, we are learning how to let him.  At every stage, from when he learned to walk, to his first day at school, to this moment at the airport, we have had to study this lesson of letting go.

We watched for him to come up from the train at Denver International Airport.  He had been traveling for more than 24 hours.  We knew he would be tired.  We scanned each wave of people.  And finally, there he was.  I couldn’t help but grin at him, relieved that he was safe and in one piece.  And when he looked up and saw us, a quick and full smile spread across his face.   I knew then, it had been a good trip.  Better than any text or phone call we could have had.  It was all right there.