He comes up next to me, opens his arms and says, “Give me a hug.”
Because I am his mom, I do.
And he shoves my head in his armpit, which makes both of us laugh until we can’t talk.
Thank god he uses a lot of Axe, and thank god he’s not too smelly yet, or it would be torture, which he still thinks it is. I jab him in his ribs, and he lets me go, but we’re both still laughing.
I can see any of my guy narrators doing this same thing to their mothers, and I like that my kid is as random and quirky as they are. But as a writer, I also put those narrators into funky situations—they drink, have sex, are shitty to people—and I don’t want my kid to go there. I’m a complete hypocrite.
So far, my kid’s worst teenage problems are bad grades, rude behavior, and shutting out his parents, which are less serious things than STIs or recreational Adderall. But things get confounding very quickly, no matter what’s going on. More than once recently, I have stared at my kid while my brain skipped like a 45: der der der what now der der der oh shit der der der. It is not comfortable to be clueless. It makes me feel like a fraud as a mom and a double fraud as a writer. Shouldn’t I know what to do? I’m supposed to understand teenagers, aren’t I?
Ha. Ha. Ha.
YA writers tend to include a lot of overreaction in their books, because it really happens and it’s also good writing. We blow things out of proportion so the resolution is that much more satisfying. But that kind of overreaction and tension sucks righteously in regular life. I am guessing the stress with my kid will not wrap up as a book might, with a little relief in the negativity, a little hope in the darkness. And what happens if there’s jail, addiction, or suicide? It’s one thing to write it. It’s another to live it.
It’s such a weird double life, to be the kid in the writing and the parent in real life. And my kid and I are at the point where the rubber(s) meets the road–it’s his time to start behaving like the characters in my books, whether I like it or not. When things are dark, I hope I’ll be strong and steady despite the anger and frustration, just like I want the parents in my books to be. I’m 105% sure I’ll fall short of that ideal. We get to revise book people, and life doesn’t have an edit button.
I also keep wondering if I’m taking his side enough. Maybe not. My son’s success at being obstinate is a biological trait he inherited from both sides (I especially see my dad in him), so it’s not like I didn’t expect him to Stick It To the Man. It just sucks when I have to be The Man.
Really, I should have been a fantasy writer. Maggie Stiefvater will never have to worry about her kids becoming Celtic water horses. My kid was always going to become a teenager.
(Side note: we have condoms at our house, for him and any of his friends. I may be a hypocrite, but I’m realistic, and very much into safety.)