Teenager in the house

FIGHTING WORDS - Kay Malilong-Isberto - The Freeman

Four unanswered text messages and at least ten calls answered by a recorded message saying that “the number cannot be reached” and I am reduced to a nervous mess. I am with my husband at a shopping mall, one of the rare times that we are going out for dinner and I cannot even enjoy myself. The teenager is out with his friends and had broken a promise to text me as soon as he gets to the party venue. I am torn between calling the mothers of the classmates he says he would be with and asking my husband to go to the party where the teenager said he would go. I have the numbers of most mothers of his classmates in my phone directory, part of my tools as a PTA mom.

My imagination swings from scenarios of reasons why he is not answering his phone and of what punishment would be fair for not texting me. One does not need to read newspapers to read stories of awful things that can happen in the city. I think about grounding him and not allowing him to go out until the school year ends. My husband looks at me as if I am crazy and tells me to let our son be. It is what he says when our teenager is out late and I want to call him and tell him to go home. I have always stopped myself until that evening. I stare at my husband enviously and wonder if only mothers worry about teenage sons. I am distracted and forget the errands I am supposed to do at the mall and call my son’s number again. The same recorded voice answers.

Three hours after I send my first text message, the teenager finally answers. He says sorry for forgetting to text and says that he is on his way home. His classmate’s father picked them up. I am relieved and strangely hungry. Maybe worrying uses up a lot of calories or I needed to celebrate that my son was okay or I wanted to stress-eat. I order an affogato, a scoop of tiramisu gelato topped with hot, strong espresso.  Mothers of teenagers must need a lot of ice cream and other comfort food, I thought. Goodbye dreams of becoming a US size 4, or even just a US size 6. The teenager is fifteen. It might be a while before I stop worrying about him while he is out. A New York Times article I saved said that a child’s job is to grow up while a parent’s job is to manage her anxiety. I repeat this like a mantra but it does not always work.

We get home and find him sprawled on the bed, exhausted, if a bit giddy, from the party. He studies at an all boys’ school and the party was an opportunity for him and his classmates to interact with girls their age. He is apologetic about not texting and says that there was no cellphone signal where he was and that his phone was used to play music and to take pictures so he did not see my text messages.

I am no longer interested in scolding him. I can only imagine what it is like to be a fifteen-year-old boy.


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