Jonathan and I have definitely developed our own form of communication over the years.
When he was in elementary school and middle school, I knew better than to believe a single word issued from his lips. Although he fancied himself a fantastical storyteller, he was really an abysmal liar. Getting him to share a single piece of relevant (and truthful) information about his day required an act of Congress and the promise of a hot-cooked meal.
In high school, I heard more about his friends that I would have initially cared to hear. However, before making the major mistake of squelching his chosen form of communication, I recognized that in the stories of his friends, I was learning more about my son. As such, I allowed him to share with me the woes of the high school hormones, with all its ups and downs.
When it became clear that Jonathan would be moving out of our house and into the dorms at the Job Corps, I was sure our lines of communication would break down, and I’d be left wondering what was going on his life. I was a little bit saddened by this thought, but considered it to be the natural course of things and resolved myself to toughen up about it. He was on the verge of being a man, after all, and most grown men don’t share the little details of their lives with their mother.
Oh, if only that were true …
Within the past eight days I have had conversations with my son that have left me reeling and weary. While I’m glad he still chooses to confide in me, I’m a little stunned that he’s not developed a filter on what could be considered appropriate to share, and what might not be.
Unless, of course, he has developed this filter and these are the items that made the cut. Good God, let me not dwell there long! Moving on …
Just over a week ago (as a preface of things to come, I suppose) Jonathan led me into a conversation about how he and some of his dorm mates were talking about hickies; who’d had the worst hickies; the oddest places they’d ever received hickies; and how many hickies they each might have given out. When I mildly responded something to the effect of hickies seeming to be par for the course when you’re an eighteen-year-old-man, Jonathan casually announced:
“Yeah, I pretty much have hickies all the time now.”
To which I replied (for lack of anything better in the midst of my stunned wonder at why I needed to know that little piece of information): “Thanks for letting me know that, Jonathan. Now, when I see you at Christmas I won’t worry that they’ve been using leeches on you up there.”
And his snappy comeback? “Why would they use leeches on us?”
When I relayed the conversation to Scott later, all he could offer was: “I just hope he’s using condoms.”
I swear. How my husband ever made it to fifty years old thinking that a condom is going to prevent a hickey, I’ll never know!
So, a few days later, Jonathan called again. Scott answered the phone this time (I was in the other room) and I heard him say, “Who’s calling? Oh hey, bud. I barely recognized you. Hold on a sec,” as he walked toward me with the phone. As I put it to my ear, I heard:
“Mom! Gueth what! I got my tongue pierthed!”
I’m sure you’ve heard of a “swoon” from the days of old movies and overwhelmed damsels. I’d heard of them, too. I’d never quite experienced one though, before that moment. As the world swam a bit out of focus I closed my eyes, not caring to see where I fell. Before I could tumble and miss the rest of the conversation, however, Jonathan continued:
“It doethn’t hurt a bit! Ith kinda numb, really. But it lookth really cool!”
“Does the Job Corps have any rules against tongue piercings, Jonathan?” I really had no idea what else to say!
“Um, I don’t think tho. But if I keep my mouth clothed, they’ll never know the differenth.”
“Yes, Jonathan. Keep your mouth closed. That sounds like a plan.”
Today, another call from Jonathan brought another volley of shocking news briefs. He had gone home with another Job Corps student for the weekend and was hanging out with that young man’s family. They were shooting firearms (“We’re being supervised, Mom! They’re civilian-issue, so it’s no big deal.”) and looking forward to food that wasn’t cooked in a cafeteria.
And, naturally, Jonathan had some news.
“Well, I took my tongue ring out. I decided that since the Army doesn’t know I have it, I should probably wait until I’m done with boot camp to actually get it.”
Can you say hallelujah?! “I think that was a smart decision, Jonathan. I’m very proud of you for thinking it through like that, however latently.”
“Yeah,” he agreed, “besides, it hurt when I tried to eat and you know I like my food.”
He also got a tattoo this weekend. Well, he had a tattoo completed, I should say. (When we took our trip to see him a few weeks ago, I discovered a partial tattoo on Jonathan’s arm. At first I thought that someone had just written on him with a pen, but with much chagrin he revealed that a friend had started to give him a tattoo of his last name with a needle and a bottle of ink. However, Jonathan had not anticipated how badly such a thing would hurt, and only allowed the first two letters of his last name to be embedded under his skin. The result was a tattoo of the letters P and E. That’s right: PE.) It turns out his friend’s mom is a licensed tattoo artist, and she offered to complete the tattoo for him, professionally. And, since the Army does know about the partial tattoo, Jonathan decided to take his chances and agreed to have it done.
Lastly, and hopefully the final piece of mother-son sharing I am to endure this calendar year, involves something Jonathan could only describe to me as “one of those machines that sends a shock into the muscle and tightens it up.” His friend’s father (based on the little information I have) suffered a spinal cord injury to some degree at some point in this life, and is in possession of a machine as so eloquently described by Jonathan.
Apparently, Jonathan and his buddies decided to jolt various parts of their bodies “just to see what it felt like.” If you can imagine a deep-voiced giggle, you’ll be imagining the voice in which my eighteen-year-old described the various shocks that escalated from fingertips to nipples.
“And then, Mom, I figured this was my one chance to prove that I was tougher than all of them.”
“Because that was in question?”
“Well, because I wanted to show ’em, ya know? So I decided to take all four of the electrode-thingies and hook ’em up to my right pectoral at one time. I knew better than to do it to the left one, since it was so close to my heart, right?”
There came that swoon again …
“So anyway, man, Mom! That thing is powerful! When I had them all hooked up, I told him to do it, and he asked if I was sure and I said ‘ Do it, man, before I chicken out and I swear to God I thought my pec’ was gonna jump right out of my skin, it was so flexed.”
“But did it hurt?” I asked through the gray that used to be my vision.
“I dunno. I was too freaked out while it was happening to really notice how painful it was until it was all over.”
Much like parenting, I must say.
So, I guess I’m still to be glad that my son is sharing with me, regardless of the “what” of it all. And I am. But now, just as a precaution, I’ve asked Scott for one of those electro-shock machines for Christmas, to be hooked up to my left pectoral the next time Jonathan calls. Just in case!