Sunday, August 27, 2006

Time Waits for No Parent

This morning, I stumbled out of bed at 6 a.m., walked into the living room and ran into a 5’ tall tripod. After regaining my balance and checking my nose for damage, I tripped over a light stand. I went into the kitchen and found a giant digital video camera recharging where my coffee pot used to sit, then stubbed my toe on a duffel bag filled with cords and strange metal parts.

Overnight, my house transformed into a movie and video production studio.

Three months ago, the Teenager couldn’t find a job flipping burgers. Now, he’s directing the TV news program at his high school, and is stage manager for A Midsummer's Night's Dream. He will direct the building of a $10,000 set for the annual musical production, Little Shop of Horrors. His teachers are funding his schemes to transform the school’s TV studios and stage sets. People pay him, and well, to shoot and edit videos. Local production companies hire him as a production assistant and grip.

And, he has minions: Goofy, Spiky, and a host of teenage writers, actors, news reporters and tech staff to help him achieve his lofty ambitions.

Worst of all, he works for my company’s competitors…and won’t tell me what they are doing.

The Teenager is 17 years old, and not yet a legal adult. Or at least he was still a teenager the last I checked. That was yesterday. And not a metaphorical yesterday, either. Yesterday: August 26.

Today, August 27, he is a young man.

Children don’t grow up all at once. They grow up in moments all strung together. It’s only parents who hang on to the past and see their growth in stages.

I remember when I realized my son was no longer a baby. He found an old pair of cowboy boots in my closet and pulled them on over his chubby legs, his diapers hanging over the top rim of the aged leather. He donned a straw hat and a denim jacket to match, and squealed all over the house, whooping it up like a cowboy on a cattle drive. I could no longer deny it. My baby was a toddler.

A couple of years later, he woke up at dawn and ran stark naked into my bedroom to wake me up, too. Suddenly, he realized he was naked. He swiveled on his heels, covered his butt with his tiny hands, and walked briskly away saying, “Don’t see me, don’t see me!” I knew he was no longer a toddler, he was now a little boy.

The little boy stage segued slowly into the big boy stage, the entire transition lasting several years. Until the sixth-grade, when he came home after school one day and said, “Ya know, Mom, all the popular girls are really cute and really smart. They get the best grades and never get into trouble. But all the popular boys get the worst grades and cause all the trouble. And all the popular girls want to date the popular boys, but they don't want to date the nice, smart boys.”

Even though he was just 11 years old, I knew he was already a teenager.

The Teenager has been trying to tell me for the past year that he’s a responsible adult and doesn’t need my prodding. I've tried to back off, but couldn’t quite believe he was past his adolescent forgetfulness.

As I massaged my bruised toe, he came into the kitchen for breakfast bubbling over about his plans for the theater stage sets, and the steady cam he’s constructing, and the clever way he handled the controlling teacher who has charge of the school’s TV equipment, and the bus stop movie he's making with.…his words ran together so fast I couldn’t discern the rest.

I smiled, and listened, for hours it seemed, then said, “Honey, I’m so proud of you.”

His smiled wide, so wide it looked like his face would crack open. For a fleeting second, he was a little boy again. “Finally, Mom! You’ve said you’re proud of me! I’ve waited for this for so long!”


mai wen said...

OMG, that's possibly one of the sweetest posts I've read in a while. I'm in awe and moved by your memories of your son and your obviously deep love and care for him. I could see each memory as you described it and almost felt as if it were My son doing all the things you mentioned (even though I don't actually have a son).

I think that love between parent and child is a precious, beautiful thing.

Thank you for sharing it. Hopefully someday I'll understand (though not any day soon, that wouldn't be ideal)!

Ballpoint Wren said...

The teenage noodle is a wonder to behold. I'm sure you've told him a billion times how proud you are of him—he's just finally listening to you. He may be the next Spielberg, but he's still a noodle!

Elizabeth, I am going through similar thought patterns right now. The boys are growing up and I'm feeling a little sad. When they move out, it isn't just an adult kid moving out, it's your baby, it's your toddler, your little boy, etc.

(When he does become the next Spielberg, though, he better put his momma in all his films.)

Elizabeth Krecker said...

Mai Wen and Amra, having kids is the best! I've loved every minute of it. And, yes, Bonnie, there's an enormous part of my heart that feels really sad. But there's an even larger part bursting with pride at the person he's become!

jon said...

My two "Snerds" are eight and ten. I shall keep checking in occasionally to get some heads up on the teen thing.

To be quite honest, teenagers horrify me to my very core.... or at least parenting one.

WannabeMe said...

If he ever does make it west, I know a producer looking for interns...

Elizabeth Krecker said...

Jon, the part that should really scare you? The second mortgage you'll need to fund their appetites!

Dana, you are a sweetheart! The Teenager will think he'd died and gone to heaven!

WannabeMe said...

"The Teenager will think he'd died and gone to heaven!"

Not until he realizes he can actually earn cash for what he's doing! =)

Rob Gregory Browne said...

Great post, Elizabeth. They grow up so damn fast, don't they? One of mine is teaching school and the other is in his second year of college.


Jessie said...

ok, please don't laugh at me, but this post had me nearly in tears! i don't have kids, but when/if I do I already feel sorry for them. I'll probably start crying every time I see them do something new!

I love reading about the relationship you have with your son. I have a feeling that the two of you have fun together.

Elizabeth Krecker said...

Dana, that's the crazy thing about this kid. He's the most money-oriented person under 18 you'll ever meet...but he'd work on movies for free for the rest of his life, he loves it that much!

Rob, it's hard to believe you have a kid out of school and teaching already, and another in college. You must have married young. Congratulations to you and your wife for raising TWO great kids!!

Jessie, I would never laugh at the tears of a parent, or future parent in your case. Parenthood is a beautiful thing!

Anonymous said...

Lovely post, and you should be proud of any kid that makes his own steady cam...