By Tammy Ellingson
I think I’ve done something wrong. Maybe it’s too early to tell yet. After all, my son is a full-fledged teenager at 13, and I keep waiting for the shoe to drop. Perhaps the shoe is hovering in mid-air waiting until he’s 14 or 15? Maybe it’s because he’s a boy, and all of that chatter about boys maturing later than girls? Whatever the reason, we still enjoy each other’s company, and we talk — for fun!
I feel privileged that my son wants to be around me and actually enjoys my company, or at least is kind enough to make me feel like he does. Despite my AARP membership qualifications, I have a somewhat warped sense of humor, so perhaps the real secret of our compatibility is due to our roughly matching maturity levels at this moment in time?
It could be that as an only child, he just doesn’t have the option of ignoring me. He could hunker down in his bedroom for hours, but he has moments where he wants to just hang out with me and talk and laugh. We recently spent a day, just the two of us, visiting Champoeg State Park, attending an archaeological lecture, having lunch and playing chess at the oldest store in Oregon, the Butteville Store. We talked, laughed and rocked out in the car. We argued with the GPS when we dared to go our own way. I gave him the option of asking a friend to go along but he passed.
I’ve long been warned to brace myself for the teenage years; to expect my heretofore congenial child to turn into a surly, disrespectful and altogether challenging person. So what went wrong here? Oh sure, there have been times when he’s snapped at me, but they’ve been brief because he knows his mother and he’s no dummy. I love this kid more than life itself, but I’m no pushover. There are expectations, boundaries and respect. Mostly, he’s kind, caring, sincere, loving, and has the most wonderful laugh in the world – a laugh that has me working my wit to its very end to bring forth because it is just that intoxicating.
I notice his growing independence every day; coupled with his love and compassion for his father and me. There are times I know he has more patience with us than we have for our own parents. He spouts old soul practicality and wisdom, and exudes a grace that makes me realize I have a lot more growing to do.
Of course I love the kid, but with all of the things I had been led to expect of the teen years, enjoying life with a teenager and actually liking the teenager wasn’t one of them. I still get the “Just wait,” from those who mean well, as if the mutual eye-rolling and arguing is just around the corner. It might be; I can’t say for certain whether our luck will hold. Most likely there will be disagreements, challenges and moments where we say things we don’t mean and hurt each other. Even if things turn and he can’t stand the sight of me for a while, I know we’ll recover and I will wait patiently. I’ll wait because I’ve seen who he is at his core, and who he’s becoming, and he’s someone I would want to know even if he wasn’t my kid. Luckily, he is mine and I will try my best to deserve this gift, and to be someone he wants to know too.
Tammy Ellingson is a work in progress, and progress is slow at times. She is a freelance writer (with emphasis on the “free” at the moment), a mother, and once the summer winds down, a substitute teacher (lucky kids). She loves to make people laugh and to make them think; on a good day, she can do both at the same time. Bookstores are her places of worship; coffee shops too. She’s also been known to worship at places that serve baked goods, chocolate, Indian food, Mexican food, any good food, beer or wine. Tammy supports diversity!
Editor’s note: Tammy is a Community Writer for the Hillsboro Argus. She is a delight to edit and an even bigger delight as a person. She epitomizes authentic.
Tomorrow: “Helpless” by Lynn St. Georges