I irritate the shit out of my 14 (now, almost 15) year old. I’m not talking about irritating him in the “mom is so out of touch and said something stupid” way, or the “she didn’t know how to PDF a document type of way”; but the “even when she just breathes, she irritates me” type of way. A friend once told me that she knew it was time to get a divorce when even the way her husband held his fork made her want to grab it from him and stab him in the neck with it (I promise you that she is usually a nice and non-violent type of woman). I’m pretty sure that my son would put me on that level of irritation-quotient some days.
If I am honest, which I always am—brutally in fact—it bugs me (hence, this post – as you guys are my free-therapy). Yes, I know that this behavior is typical teenage behavior. And yes, my mom irritated the shit out of me too. But, in my defense, she did wear the same one-size-too-small, Kelly green Adidas sweat suit with white stripes down the side, and her favorite doo-rag head wrap to walk five miles around our neighborhood every morning on a loop that went right past my bus stop.
I thought that I would be different from my mom. PHT (Pre-having a teen) I thought that I’d be different from the majority of moms. A lot of moms irritate me too—with their PTA-going, pearl wearing, coordinated outfit, always smiling, leave-it-to-beaver selves. I’m rather cool—I mean, at least for a woman in her 40’s. I used to teach high school—and was one of the favorite teachers—so I thought that when I had teenagers, I would be THAT mom, who everyone could relate too. I mean, I whip and Nae-Nae better than some 20-somethings. That has GOT to count for something. But, no, I whip and I Nae-Nae, I cook, I clean, I kiss on him, I chauffeur him, and I don’t wear too-tight adidas sweat suits, but his disgust sometimes is palpable.
He’s not disrespectful because I’m also a Southern Black woman so he knows better; but I can feel his inner side-eye. And his one word responses as I desperately try to have conversations with him upon pick up from activities is telling.
Me: Hey Baby, did you have a productive basketball practice?
Me: I was thinking about cooking pork chops for dinner because I know that you like them so much. Or would you rather have spaghetti since your friend is coming over.
Me: I saw that you got an A on the English paper. You really worked hard on it. I am impressed with your efforts. English was my favorite subject in school, but I know that you prefer math.
Now, don’t mistake me—I’m not one of those moms who is desperate to be my child’s friend. I’ve always told my kids: “one day, we may be the best of friends. Right now, however, it’s my job to raise you.” Frankly, I think that it’s odd and somewhat pitiful when adult women brag that children who are under a certain age are their best friends (but, maybe deep inside I’m really jealous).
What’s ironic about the whole thing is that I actually like the kid now more than ever. Of course, I have always loved him; but he was more of a project. He was someone that I was molding, working on. Now I can see the person, can appreciate his personality, and enjoy him when he allows. When he does open up to me—I really dig the guy—a lot.
So, I anxiously await those rare moments when he engages with me. Every afternoon, when I am in the car line waiting to pick him up I wonder if today will be one of those special days. No guy has ever had me this giddy—longing for attention—almost like I’m not cool. Which I am . . . even if my 14-year-old doesn’t recognize it. Right?
My intention is for Black people to love themselves and each other. It sounds somewhat silly, I guess; but oftentimes my people are overwhelmed with negative images, bad news, and stereotyped characters about us. I’d like to flip that script. I’d like to remind us, as often as I can, how incredible we are. Read more