My oldest son Ryan hasn’t seen his buddy, George, in a while because he’s been away at camp or at his family’s summer lake house. Some day George will either be a politician or he’ll run a company (a very real possibility given his family legacy). I love that he’s incredibly polite, maybe even a bit of a schmoozer. “Hi Mrs. Hoke. How are you? Did you get your haircut?” That’s better than many of the boys who manage to mutter a ‘hey” without even looking in your direction.
Georgie is a charmer, though. I adore the kid even as I sense the mischievous in him. Last fall during football carpool he tried to get Ryan (and by default, me) to host a boy-girl Halloween party. “Come on Mrs. Hoke, it will be a blast. Everyone will be there.” Precisely why I said no way.
This time though, George, who still has the chubby hands and rosy cheeks of a little boy, sat in the van, grinned with his eyebrows raised and said, “So Ryan, how’s your summer been?” Ryan, who is about a head taller, lean and looks two years older than George, replied, “Ah, it’s been okay.”
“Have you talked to Lindsay?”
What??!!! My ears perked up and I nonchalantly turned down the volume on All Things Considered so I could eavesdrop.
“Nope,” said Ryan.
“You haven’t seen her or called her or Instant Messenger-ed her?” asked George.
“Nope,” said Ryan.
“Ah man I met this sweet girl at Culver named Chloe. I’ve got to show you the pictures. She’s beautiful.”
Ryan just nodded.
So it’s Lindsay. I remember him talking about her in the winter when all the kids would go to open skate at Rocky River Ice Rink on Friday nights. Once this summer while I was changing the sheets on his bed I found an adorable picture of Ryan and Lindsay that someone must have taken at school. He was hiding it, but I put it out on his dresser where it remains today along with his mouth guard and jock strap. (Sorry, Lindsay.)
One night I told him it was a cute picture, but Ryan just shrugged his shoulders. And then tonight, after I dropped him off at practice, Lindsay called. Girls have never called our house before (except for the neighborhood tormenter calling to tell me that Patrick ignored her—AGAIN!).
When Ryan got home from practice I told him Lindsay called. I was very cool, very nonchalant. He nearly ripped his football helmet from his head and yelled, “What?”
“Lindsay called. I told her you’d call her back.”
“Mom! Why did you say that?” he barked.
“Um, I don’t know, because it’s the polite thing to do. And besides, I thought you liked her.”
“I do, but I don’t want to talk to her.”
Ohhhhh, I get it. We’re at that I-like-you-therefore-I’ll-ignore-you phase. Phew! For a minute I thought I was gearing up for evenings filled with the phone ringing and little girl giggles as they hang up upon losing their nerve. (Not that I EVER played that game.)
Lindsay did call back probably because I told her Ryan would be home after 7:30. Danny answered the phone and handed it off to Ryan, who was chomping on a burger. “Yeah, huh, okay. I gotta go.” That’s it. End of discussion.
When I asked what she wanted, Ryan’s eyes filled with tears, he lowered his head into his arms and said, “Mom, I don’t know how to talk to girls.”
“But you talk to me and I’m a girl.” A lame response, I know, but I was trying to lighten the mood.
“Yeah, but you’re my mom and you’re cool.” Okay, let me just stop right there and say THAT made my day, probably my week and maybe even my month. My pre-teen son thinks I’m cool. But I digress.
I realized at that moment—thankfully—that my son is not yet ready for all this boy-girl stuff. And I’m okay with that. I just want him to be okay with it. Ryan turns 12 in November and in many ways he has always been mature for his age. He has no problem conversing with adults (male or female), handles responsibility very well and is capable of grasping some pretty intellectual topics. But girls? Unless they could throw a football or shoot a hoop, they never before entered Ryan's radar.
However, many of his buddies, a good portion of whom have older brothers, are a little too girl crazy if you ask me. Ryan, with his red-rimmed eyes, nose running and milk moustache just looked at me and said with such sincerity, “Mom, I’m not ready for this.”
The mother bear in me wanted to reach over and grab him and hold him and tell him that it’s okay because I’m not ready for this either. Instead I looked at him and said, “Ryan, don’t feel pressured just because some of your friends are talking to girls. I’ll teach you a bit about small talk and you’ll be just fine.”
He nodded and smiled, we pumped knuckles (“gimme some love”) and then he let me give him that big mama bear hug (along with a few Oreos). And I breathed a sigh of relief knowing that we’re safe and secure in the land of little boys for just a little while longer…