When I finally looked, I knew why.
The baby dancing in diapers reminded both of us of our son, a teenager who now towers over both of us.
When he was born, everyone told me the years would fly by, but I really didn’t believe them. Sleepless nights, diapers and endless worries about his development consumed my time and energy.
Now suddenly, he is a sophomore in high school with a life about which I know very little.
I know the boy who walks through my house in his boxer shorts and tousled hair. I know the boy who is obsessed with computers, video games and music. I know the boy who comes home from football games and plays the trumpet after he thinks everyone else is asleep. I even know the boy who gives me sarcastic answers in one breath and says “I love you too, Mom” in the next breath.
But what I don’t know is the teenager who goes to school every day and faces the realities of adolescence and peer pressure. I simply get glimpses of him every now and then.
The first glimpse came at the end of his eighth grade year when he won a dance contest during a school assembly. My son? Seriously? He was never the most coordinated kid nor particularly interested in anything that’s popular. I later found out he’d won the contest by performing the “Dead Bernie,” which is actually a shout out to a movie from the year I graduated from college.
I got another glimpse when I was at Girl Scout camp with my daughter this summer when one of the other mothers mentioned him.
“My son loves Shepherd,” she said. “He’s like Norm on Cheers. When he enters the classroom, everyone yells his name.”
I asked Shep about this, and he stoically said, “I’m a character, Mom.”
And then, at a recent football game, an English teacher was chatting with me. “I love Shepherd,” she said. “He is just so enthusiastic. He doesn’t care what people think about him.”
I got the not caring about what people think about him part, but I wasn’t sure about the enthusiasm. Around the house, he generally shows the enthusiasm of a slug.
But that same night after the game, he was particularly talkative.
“Mom,” he said. “One of the kids from the other band told me I was an awesome trumpet player.”
That’s about as talkative as Shep gets. At least, that’s about as talkative as he gets with me. But he highlighted his enthusiasm by wailing on his trumpet until the wee hours of the morning.
His love of music is why I am being the dutiful mother and taking on responsibilities with the school music boosters. That’s also why, on Monday night, I found myself playing games on my phone during a boosters meeting while I listened to other parents discuss basket bingo and costumes for show choir.
Then the band director said something that caught my attention. The group had been talking about the band’s performance at an away football game when the other school had given them unexpected respect and a standing ovation. In response, the band had signed a thank you letter. Only, according to the band director, he couldn’t send it yet because someone had decided to give himself an inappropriate title upon signing.
My heart sank. The band director never gave any indication about who the culprit was, but I knew. When I got home, I didn’t even ask. But I did tell my husband, who pursued the issue with Shepherd.
“I asked Shep about signing the letter,” Giles said. “He admitted he embellished his signature a bit by adding that he was the best trumpet player.”
My heart sank a bit that my son had once again gone a bit too far. But then, my heart also lifted.
Maybe I’ve been kidding myself. Maybe I do know my son better than I thought.
Maybe, just maybe, I am having a problem letting go of the toddler and embracing the man he will soon be.
But in the meantime, I’m drafting a speech about modesty and how to sign a letter.
I have absolutely no doubt about what Shep’s one word response will be.
And when he says, “whatever,” I’ll know he still needs a mom to guide him.