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Adolescent Boys and...

Adolescent Boys and Beyond

Today was a big day for my two youngest sons. My eleven-year-old son Jacob, who is a sixth grader at our middle school, attended his first Canteen. For you newbies, a canteen is a casual dance at the middle school where the young preteens and teens get a chance to hang out in a supervised environment. Even though canteens are casual, they always involve a lot of angst. First, it’s the shower. Thank God, it is the shower. Jake is still a little boy who, after the puberty talk at school, has been eagerly waiting to stink. It appears the most impressive part of last year’s puberty talk was the anticipation of using deodorant. Supposedly, the students were told if they didn’t know if they needed deodorant or not, that their parents could tell them. That meant for weeks, I smelled his arm pits just in case some odor producing bacteria had set up homestead in his pits. Knowing this deodorant was just like a McDonald’s toy, once you have it, you are no longer interested in it and in the interest of saving my olfactory organs, I bought him his own deodorant. Initially, it didn’t help, outdoor play was continually interrupted with inside trips to the bathroom to freshen up the old arm pits, but as expected, eventually the newness wore off.
 
Okay, back to the canteen story, second on the list were the clothes. Jake carefully chose his clothes and even though his sixteen year old brother told him his clothes were good but NOT sweet, he remained steadfast with the decision of athletic shorts and an underarmor shirt snuggled to his small physique.
 
Thirdly, the hair. Jake wanted his hair to be combed and styled with enough hairspray to give him a mohawk. Since the mohawk was not the hair style of my choice, I asked why. As he succinctly explained, “it’s a party.” I couldn’t argue! I obediently combed and sprayed until the hair stood to his satisfaction. Actually, until his sister Lydia came home and he opted for a generational change in stylist. Much to my disdain this was not the first time Jake publicly displayed his mohawk. Last spring, Jake was in his school’s talent show and as my busy life dictated, I ran from my school of employment to his elementary school just in time to see his act. I knew that Jake’s performance included a dozen of his classmates dancing to the song, all star. What I didn’t know about, was the hair. Every parent who passed me couldn’t resist commenting on Jake’s new do, especially his teacher. Jake’s classroom teacher has known me and our family since my oldest child started school seventeen years ago. She playfully asked me if I had sent him to school looking like that. I clearly made the point that “his father” drops him off at school. She continued the banter when she told me that he didn’t come to school with the mohawk. She explained that when Jake and his buddies went into the restroom, he came out with the mohawk. Well, that explains why I couldn’t find my bottle of hairspray this morning. I am a mother of seven and Jake is my youngest, so this is not my first rodeo. More than once, my children have used their hair as an expression of art and I know hair is the least of my worries, but I still felt the smugness of some who were thanking God that it wasn’t their son up on stage sporting a new do in front of the whole community. I proudly taped Jake and with the thrill of a program gone well, Jake told me that he had received a lot of accolades about his hair. I said, “I guess that was the point, huh?” Jake responded, “I had to do something. I was in the back row.” Again, I couldn’t argue, his smaller stature required it, right?! My husband Roger came home from work just in time to join me in dropping Jake off at the canteen. As we were pulling out of the school’s driveway, Roger spoke what we both had been thinking, “Are we going to survive another adolescent’s middle school years or could we just send him straight to high school?” After our son John, a junior in high school, announced he had asked one of his sister’s friends to homecoming, we knew nowhere was safe.

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