Column: Parents have growing pains, too | Opinion

Something amazing caught my eye in the rearview mirror that day when I looked again at the traffic.

It was my child. Just sitting there. Do nothing, really, except grow.

I almost did a double job. Because he wasn’t that fat little face staring at me anymore. Now, this face — he’ll proudly tell you after spotting the tiniest of traces — has peach fuzz that’s predicted to be a bristly caterpillar-shaped mustache by January. Like the only sport of cock in Top Gun: Maverick.

Am I ready for this? Does it even matter if you are?

I am trying to temper his expectations of full facial hair at the age of twelve. But the answers are no and no.

These things are not delayed until parents can support themselves. He is unstoppable and independent, and we have to adapt to it. At least that’s what the middle school video suggested my son’s health teacher emailed to parents to check out earlier this year.

Suffice to say, it will be easier for me to adapt than it will be. Have you noticed the world we live in today? You can’t push me through the seventh grade back gate for a million dollars.

Well, maybe that’s not entirely true. I know a lot now. Like, where some of these baddies ended up in my class after 30 years. Also, I could quit my job if I gave a million dollars to invest wisely.

I would obviously buy a bunch of cute baseball cards, as I would have in 1990.

In any case, it is interesting how my son approaches my size, and the distance between us is getting wider and faster. Because of his entry into the bewildering land of the twyndom. Because of his rapid individual development and interests, which are nothing like mine – except that I, too, hope he will one day grow a caterpillar mustache that his mother will hate.

From day one, when I looked at that jaundiced newborn during his first diaper change, I worried about how I would give birth. One of the last thoughts running through my head in bed is, Am I doing a good job with it? Can I have some help please?

Twelve years later, our relationship didn’t quite prove the way I began to imagine when he was writhing in his mother’s belly. And now we enter that area where I am seen as someone to be avoided, just by being who I am to him: my father.

It’s hard to accept, no matter how long you know it’s coming.

When my son decided to go out of his room for a ninth bag of chips, I just became that guy with demands in the house.

Turn off video games. Get rid of those eight empty bags on your floor. Eat something other than french fries. Brush your teeth. Don’t brush your teeth in the hallway because the toothpaste will drip onto the carpet. Help me mow the lawn. Don’t mow the lawn this way – mow it like this. Chill out about your math teacher. Stop sticking your head in Marshall’s clothes rack to search for a portal to another dimension because you’re stuck in that awful dimension with me.

At this point in parenthood, you unconsciously end up turning off the heater. This boy—who had a glowworm under his arm, to whom I read 12 books a day—didn’t remember much about the special time we shared early on. I’m going to show him funny videos of when he was two years old, walking around wearing underwear on his head imitating the Neverland pirate. and laughs.

But it goes without saying that I’ve tended to all his needs for about 5 years, including taking on the role of playing partner.

For him, I am now fulfilling less and less needs.

This is the nature of work.

This means I have to calmly be a role model. I might do a little for him or him, but I can be the one he looks up to for reassurance. Even without a mustache, I can be his prime example of masculinity.

Like, last month, I could feel him looking at me during a rough moment in Top Gun: Maverick. Perhaps he was checking to see if it was okay for a man to shed a tear in this emotionally charged scene between two male characters. And I showed him it was, really.

I used to be the one who decided when he needed me. It was almost all the time, because he was young. And needy. Should I pick it up and dust it off after a heavy spill in the playground or let it do it by itself? Should I point out the mistake he made in Bag 2 of that Lego set or wait until he notices and finds out how to track his steps?

These days, he decides when he needs me, while I wait until. Choose the time of the intervention carefully.

This stage makes me feel somewhat needed.

He told me, at least, some of his dreams. Like, last week he said he ate a microwave ramen with sauce.

A part of me wants him to hurry up and needs me again. For something other than requests or money. But it’s so farfetched, and I’m just selfish.

The most selfless thing I can do for him right now is allow him. Make sure he grows up properly, with challenges, convenience, and microwave ramen. Make sure, if possible, that it does not grow too quickly.

This place makes it difficult. Real life has become one great set of Lego toys, and kids are being asked to discover them at an unprecedented pace.

Every once in a while this summer, I’ve prevented myself from telling him to ditch the crap. Because he has to be a footballer for as long as possible.

If anything, I should join him, as if he was two years old and wear underwear on my head as well. Where is the gate to that place?

Those years were difficult but rewarding. It’s getting hard to find things we can share, things he’s interested in sharing with me.

I’ll give him the place and the time. I will choose my positions, and allow him to do the same to me when he changes, as he learns and accepts himself.

We delve deeper into that part of the journey where he got the breakup, even if he was sitting in the back seat. This mustache will be inside before we know it.

You know, I’ve always wanted a mustache, too.

Maybe we can grow it together.

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