This was my third attempt undertaken in the golden city to turn the SonOfTheSun into a man.
Here we are, the mother and the son, after long three years, living together again.
And during these three years – well, many things have happened. From new children to new cities, new books and new views of the world. Both of us have studded our lives with years, but it still seems to me that his 15 years of age have bristled at me like 15 quills I get pricked on regularly.
By looking at a paper where he was supposed to write down his plan of activities for every day (so as to avoid the atrophy of his mental and physical muscles), I saw, under the heading “Getting Up” – 8:31. It was written in a pink marker, with some sort of awkwardly distorted handwriting. For a thousand times I have wondered: is “A DUNCE” note pinned on my back nonchalantly, or are the words just vaguely hinted on the piece of paper…. very shyly, leaving some room for dignity I am entitled to as any other human being, even as a parent of a teenager. But what is that “SHT” – I ask, bashfully look up at His Royal Highness.
That? Nothing. It’s a shit. – says the blue-eyed marvel blinking. It seems to me that I can see a speech bubble above his head with the words: “What are you going to do now?!!”. I take a deep and heavy breath with a desire to ask him how come the shit is there, then I exhale and retreat into myself. No answer for your questions.
For days we have been quibbling over the wake-up time, the bed dime, the computer-time, then over being late, learning the language and other general rules each member of this headstrong crew goes by. We quibble over being dirty, cleanliness, arrogance, impudence, selfishness and laziness. A sinful mother and a sinful son, I guess. I don’t know where I draw the strength from to bicker with this spiteful marvel, while balancing on the invisible ropes which other inmates (other three children and certainly the husband) pull to their own sides, in accordance with their needs.
While we are sitting at the dining-room table with crossed swords, looking at each other slightly sideways, I’m becoming sentimental and mad at the same time. That inaccessible boy with shaggy hair, cheeky, emotionless, and indifferent Martian, slowed-down and sticky like some slimy mass which sticks to everything it touches... he has no idea with how much impatience I was waiting for his arrival to Prague. He doesn’t know how much I worried that he might give up at the very last moment and stay in Belgrade. He doesn’t know how many times I stayed up until the early morning hours thinking about him in the new school, with new friends, in the new country and the new city... How many times I started writing an email to him, and stopped (not wanting to get on his wick), starting it over again.... Or how many times I covertly watched him sleep when he finally got here, wondering if he is the same as “back then” or if he is now a different son of mine....
I am sitting and wondering which social service is to protect such a desperate parental world from this cruel teenage world which has a weapon at its disposal it has not fully grown to dispose of.
My whining has also reached our beloved family councilor, a woman with a warm voice and wonderful curls, who is explaining to us with lots of understanding and compassion that “the adolescence is an age fraught with challenges”. An age fraught with challenges. Gvozdenka, my friend, translated it in a plastic manner: “What poses a challenge for me is to enjoy a love affair with an overly handsome French man on a sand beach, without being caught by either his wife or my husband…. this poses a challenge for me. Those things are problems. A carriage full of problems.” Then we laugh, desperately and in a disoriented manner, wondering if life was the same to our mothers. Our mothers laugh at us, feeling happy – back then they were allowed to beat us.
Ah. Today you mustn’t beat children. It is clear. It is forbidden the same way smoking in public premises is. Anyway, how would I beat this child-man, bigger than myself? We mustn’t criticize them, insult them or judge them. We mustn’t push them, either. Under no circumstances, please. Well, do you have any idea how they feel? Although they are “trying to break the boundaries”, and they don’t do that very tactfully, it is our duty to notice, from the standpoint of love and understanding, like saints in their robes, that it is the path of growing up. And it is our duty to bless it – by turning the other cheek?!
There is no salvation for bad parents. I should have thought about that earlier, while sowing, it seems. If I had spent more time playing in the sandpit in the park, that kid would be full of love and today he would resist my parental rules with less impudence. If I had photographed him more, clapping hands and shouting “My Son, you are – perfect”. Maybe – if I had been more devoted to other mothers from his class. Who knows. Or, needless to mention, if I hadn’t divorced. What a fright. I should have stayed in a bad marriage for the sake of this tenuous being. Or no, I shouldn’t have stayed in a bad marriage under any circumstances just for the sake of this tenuous being. Who would know. That’s the way it is. Because of all these things, and because of who knows what other things, when my SonOfTheSun slaps a dragging and gloomy “Sod off” across my face, anguished that he has to address me in the first place, my head flies across the room as if somebody has given me a slap with a tin pan lid when I least expect it. Not to mention the pain.
It truly seems to me that breast feeding as a motherly challenge is very overrated. And the natural childbirth and all topics related to episiotomy. And sleeping at night. And giving birth to a younger brother or sister. Crawling as well, starting to walk and removing diapers. Especially starting kindergarten and starting school. All these things taken together, and all these topics, along with engaged literature, workshops, blogs, associations and posters – to me they all seem like harmless sneezing and slightly runny nose in comparison to this insidious infection in the form of adolescence which has ailed me. Truthfully speaking, it cannot kill you, although all the symptoms of being killed are there.
Unfortunately (or, nevertheless, fortunately), all my friends, acquaintances and cousins have wonderful children and positive experiences. Nobody knows how it has happened to be so, but it is so. That’s what life is like. This is why all my whining returns to me like an echo in a Peppa Pig episode when she was squalling standing on a cliff. There is no salvation for bad mothers. You are doomed to paddle in the stinky puddle of adolescence until it dries out and the stench disappears, and this phase is replaced by another, even “groovier” one.
While writing these lines, what comes to my mind is the latest discussion at the school psychologist (held in English) who was trying, gracefully and interestedly, to break through the SonOfTheSun shield. The minute questions were hopping on their own, followed by a little giggle, getting to know the circumstances of our lives and looking over the glasses. Leaning against his own knees, the SonOfTheSun was looking at the lady psychologist with a stare. He was almost not winking. I almost felt unpleasant how present he seemed to be. Well, how do you get along…. how do you solve problems….. by talking? Yes? Excellent, by talking…. And does it ever happen, just eeeever, that you are physically punished?
You mean that they hit me? Asks the SonOfTheSun pensively.
Well, yes, I mean, it doesn’t have to be a strong blow, but does it ever happen that they cuff or slap you lightly…
I am looking at him and her, waiting to see where this ship is bound for.
Yes, it happens! Says the SonOfTheSun and I almost jump up on the chair in utter shock.
I am rewinding the film in my head. I cannot believe what is happening, I imagine a court-martial which seizes not only the SonOfTheSun, but also my other children… The conversation is certainly not going in the good direction.
The sexy psychologist leans against her elbow, brushes a hand against the other, discretely pouting her lips.
Well, when, for instance? She asks him carefully and slightly leans her head to the right.
And the SonOfTheSun, not giving me a single look, glimpses the floor, then glimpses across her shoulder (or down her cleavage)… and then, in such a lazy and sly manner replies:
Well, for exaaaample, when I step into a shit!
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Illustrated by Ema Brown Owl
Author Tamara O.
Translated by Ljiljana Smudja