Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Happy Birthday, Son

My son turns fourteen today. The picture above is obviously from years ago, but it is a favourite of mine so I stuck it at the top of this post.

How things have changed over the years that he has been alive. He has grown into a fine young man. He has a mind of his own, and no longer needs his mom and dad as much as he did when he was younger. When I am not butting heads with him, we have a lot of fun together. Even when we are butting heads, I still love him and wouldn't trade him for all the riches in the world. And I mean that.

One thing I miss these days, is that we don't talk as much as we used to. He has other things on his mind. What do teenage boys have on their minds? Gadgets, for sure. Girls for sure. I don't imagine much else matters at the moment.

It is amazing what kids remember. They don't remember to do their homework, clean the litter box, or take out the garbage. They do remember a promise a parent made years ago. I mentioned to my son a long, long time ago that when he started high school, I would get him a cell phone, so I could reach him at any time of day or night. I would need to know exactly where he was at every minute. Fast forward a few years. He is now about to go to high school.

"Dad, remember that promise to get me a cell phone when I started high school? Well, school is only a month away, and it's my birthday, and you did promise, so what do you think?"

That's the condensed version.

What could I do? I did make that promise. So, yesterday we went to the local mall and got him a cell phone. The deal I made with him is that he never exceeds the allotted minutes on the plan we signed up for, or he pays for the overage himself and then loses the phone afterwards.

As I sat in my office this morning, my MSN chirped and announced that my son was online. I saw that his MSN handle or nickname had been changed and that it now contained his cell phone number. Here is a transcript of our MSN chat:

Me: Hey, Bozo, don't use up all your cell phone minutes or your dad is going to be supremely pissed off!!! Otherwise, how is your day?

He: i just woke up

Me: And a very Happy Birthday

He: um thanks

Me: you are going to have a great day, and i'm glad you have a cell phone now

He: yup

Me: you are a man of few words, aren't you?

He: yup

Me: Is it because you can't type fast enough?

He: no

Me: I have two words for you: Mavis Beacon!!

It isn't really that he can't type fast enough, of course, it is that conversations with his friends are currently more interesting and exciting than a dialogue with his dad. That's OK. We all grow up, sometimes too quickly, and forget what it was like to be young ourselves. In among the serious parts of our lives, it's OK to have some fun, as long as it is not irresponsible or harmful to others. This is his time to have fun.

Happy Birthday, son. I love you. And remember not to burn through those cell phone minutes. You wouldn't want to upset your dad, right? See you tonight.


  1. He typed the 'um' in?

    He's an adorable little boy up top there, I can see why you like the picture. The msn conversation made me sad, but I suppose in another decade he'll probably be calling you on weekends for golf and such things. Make him promise it now and don't forget to remember.

  2. Yes, he did type the 'um' in. I should stress that he and I test each other all the time, sort of 'yanking the chain' of the other, and that the subtext of conversations often says more than the words used. On the other hand, he can be quite the orator when he needs to be, or when he wants something.

  3. Don't the years go fast? I bet you're not like a mother can be, wishing futiley for afternoons in the park with juice boxes.

    When I was a little girl, my father promised me a red Thunderbird when I was 16. I think he's forgotten about it by now.

    I love the dialogue between you and your son. I laugh that you get many one word answers as I do.

  4. Like that song... 'fun, fun,fun until her daddy took her T-bird away,' except you didn't get to enjoy it first.

  5. Exactly! What a great connection.

  6. My mom used to give me "gifts" with which she could control me. I either "lost" them (usually in a dumpster), gave them to friends or they ended up getting "stolen". After she caught on, I started asking her for cash instead, or the receipt.
    There's a fine line between mothering and smothering; between fathering and bothering.
    Parents who realize the difference between 14 and 4 do well!

  7. Right, Galt-In-Da-Box, I believe in granting new rights and freedoms to teenagers but also believe that there have to be high expectations of reasonable behaviour when interacting with the world at large. Kids who learn responsibility at home are less likely to be a pain in the ass to others.

  8. I didn't have any chores, but I did have to make sure the rent was paid, that my mother took her medication, that the garbage was taken out and that we went to the food bank. However, my mother talked to me all the time and she never lectured or even suggested (she thought I was more mature when I was fourteen than now, approaching thirty four).

    No matter what I had or didn't have or how free or responsible I had to be, my one constant from both parents was that I was well loved, respected and listened to.

    I was handed an extraordinary amount of freedom and responsibility very early on and I've had positive and negative from that.

    I've never been given any money (began to pay rent at 13), but we had a lot of conversation.

    I knew my parents to be people.

    I am trying to parent Oee more than I was parented, but I hope that I will recognize when she needs more space and I hope that if I've done my job properly I can give it to her and that she will return the favor by including me in it once in a while, so that I'm there for her when she does and when she doesn't know she needs me.

    I'm an idealist, too.


  9. Are you actually familiar with Mavis Beacon or did you simply read an advert about it somewhere? It did wonders for me, and I recommend it highly.

  10. Penny, you have had an extraordinary life and it shows in how you parent your own child. I had a lot of responsibility as a child too, but nowhere near as much as you did.

    As far as mistakes go, I could write a book on things I might have done better, differently, or not at all. Instead, I refuse to dwell on what might have been because everything that was brings me here, to what is, to where I am today.

    Your child is growing up loved and guided; guided both by being taught and by being shown by example. She'll do great.

  11. Anonymous: Yep, we have Mavis at home. The joke is that my son, like is father, is a proficient two-finger typist. We are trying to get him to learn to do it right, like his mother. Not much luck, so far.