My son’s first girlfriend was Alyssa Milano. He was three. She was twenty-seven. Alyssa was on the cover ofÂ Cosmopolitan Magazine that year and my son cut her out with his child-safe scissors thenÂ stuck her to the refrigerator withÂ a couple of his ABC magnets. He told me,Â ”Mom, this is my girlfriend.”
That same year, my sonÂ developed a crush on Poison Ivy. Uma Thurman Poison Ivy; cartoon Poison Ivy; plastic action-figure Poison Ivy. He carried that action-figure around for weeks;Â everywhere we went the boy broughtÂ Poison Ivy.
One day, my sonÂ left Poison IvyÂ in a store by mistake, and when weÂ went backÂ for her,Â we had no luck.
“Honey, do you want me to buy you another one?”
“No, Mama,” he said. Â Some things, you can’t replace.
My son will be fourteen in forty-seven days. Already I worry about him driving.Â Sure, that’s two years away and maybe if I worry enough now I won’t worry asÂ much when he’s actually driving. How does any parent live throughÂ this rite of passage?Â It’s a big one.
I can’t bear the thought of anything happening to my son. Perhaps my father suffered the same anxiety. Car accidents kill more teenagers than anything else.
When my son was ten he said, “Mom, when I’m old enough to drive and I ask you if I can have a carÂ just tell me no. Driving is dangerous.” Now he says, “When you get me a car, just make itÂ a junker since I’ll probably wreck it.” Jesus. Effing. Christ.Â Â How am I going to sleep at night? Never mind. I already don’t.
I know aÂ man who rolled his Camero at sixteen and never walked again.
My son likes video games; he likes his air-soft gun.Â He knows quite a lot about guns for a thirteen-year-old. He can knock offÂ types, calibers, whatever you want. He recognizes particular guns in movies.Â The best thing you could do is show my son your gun collection. He’ll love you for life. Or take him to the shooting range. Even better. Now you’re stuck with him. Our friend, Rich, took Kiddo to the shooting range a few weeks ago. Rich now refers to my son as “Dead Eye Dan.” Apparently, my son has great aim. When RichÂ asked Kiddo if he wanted to shoot something for real—a bird, a squirrel, something—my son said no.
Three months ago, my sonÂ said he wanted to join the military so he could go to boot camp and handle weapons but he didn’tÂ want to go to war.
There lies the conundrum.
“I couldn’t ever kill a person, Mom.”
I’llÂ never forget when my son told me Jesus was a Black man or when he said George Bush was dumber than a baby.
I’ll never forget four months ago when he sent me a text message. “Mom, what would you say if I told you I have a girlfriend?”
Here’s the thing: my son has hit all his milestones when he was ready. I never forced or thwarted anything.
When heÂ wasÂ three months oldÂ this woman told me I held my sonÂ too much. “He’ll never walk if you hold him that much. He’ll cling to you.”
Excuse me, but he’s three months old, and he’s not heavy: he’s my baby, not to mention if my son wants me to hold him I will. Fuck you. Jesus. I held my baby. I breast fed him until he weaned himself. He sucked a pacifier until he was two-and-half then, pop! It fell out of his mouth, and he forgot about it. My son slept with me for years.Â Don’t let your child sleep with you. He’ll sleep with you when he’s in high school. I can assure you that isn’t true.Â I also got a lot of flak about not rushingÂ my son into potty training. Two weeks before his third birthday he said, “Mama, I want to wear big-boy wares now,”Â so he switched fromÂ diapers to underwear and started using the toilet.
He’ll be fourteen in forty-seven days. I’m not allowed to stand in the doorway when he leaves the house in the morning because his friends wait for him in the street.
Two days after he had a girlfriend, he brokeÂ up with her.Â ”We’re friends,” he said. “I’mÂ not ready for a girlfriend.”
Girls are a buzzkill, he says these days.Â He sure gets a lot of text messages from them.
When my son wanted to dye his hair blue I let him. When he wanted to dye it green I let him. When he wanted to dye it red, green, and blue I let him. I let him dye his hair black. I let him paint hisÂ fingernails black. Six months ago he said he wanted to get snake bites in his face when he turned sixteen and I said, “If that’s what you want, okay.”Â My son has a beautifulÂ face. I think it would be a shame. Still, what would be worse?Â Snake bits or him getting a girl pregnant? When my son was five he saw a condom commercialÂ and asked me what a condom was, so I showed him. I mean I took one out of the package and showed him. And I explained its functionality.
Straight talk, people. You don’t want to end up a father before you’re ready. You don’t want sores on your dick. You don’t want to die from AIDS.
I’ll never forget when my son said he didn’t want to grow hair on his balls or when he said his absentee father was an asshole. When he was four, he asked me why his father didn’t love him. I’ve tried to forget that day. I wanted to shoot myself in the face.
My son came out of me beautiful.Â I know every mother says that.
And I’ve said this before too: when you decide to have a child, you’ve signed a contract with the universe.
I’ve no patience with any parent who doesn’t understand this or any one who can’t get his or her shit together for the sake of his or her child. Fuck you. We may accomplish a great many things in this life but none so great as cultivating a child.
Ripple effects, my friends. This is bigger than you.