Written by: Kerima Tuvera
There’s a teenager in my house. Until a few years ago, he was my son. but when he turned thirteen, he became also this tall stranger with new pimples around his nose and an insolence in his manners.
For nearly two years now, there’s been an undeclared ware between him and me. he wins the skirmishes but he loses the battles. He may get his way every now and then, but he knows that I make the big decisions. I am always tempted to punish him, and I am sure he has thought of fighting back. We are suddenly to each other two people we don’t like very much. He has ideas that shock me and I have standards that appall him.
Once or twice, we manage to rediscover each other. After a heated argument over why he should roll up his bedding and pick up his soiled clothes and study his lessons, this teenager and I look into each other’s eyes. I search for the baby I woke up each dawn for, thirteen years ago. I do not know what he looks for in my face, but he finds it there because he smiles. The anger vanishes between us although the issue is not solved. Strewn on the floor each morning will be his bedding. Close by, like the molting of a snake, are the algebra lessons undone, the comic books well-thumbed, the messy bathroom…
When I surprise him in his room, I find him staring at the ceiling, daydreaming. I am reality, I am the enemy, with many do’s and don’t’s. Sometimes, I feel he and I will never reach each other again. Surely, he may not understand me till he’s a father himself and stands where I do now.
He was doing better last year at his studies, passing by the skin of his teeth. I am not to sure he will pass this year, not even if he has two sets of teeth. He barely opens his textbooks. He can sit for hours before the idiot box, the TV, mesmerized by even the most stupid programs.
He does not lie very well. I sent him once on an errand and he was gone three hours. When he returned, he told me that the man I wanted wasn’t there and that he waited, etc. Ten minutes later, he was telling me the truth. He had gone joyriding with a classmate, a boy of 15 who, obviously with his parent’s help, had gotten a license and drove a car of his own.
Last week, on the eve of a party, I kept him home. It was his bad luck that the day before the party, he handed me a report card with four failing grades. I said simply, stay home. I felt guilty about making him miss the fun, but he was over his hump quicker than expected. At 7:30 pm, when the party should have been beginning, he had a bottle of Coke in one hand and he was horsing around with is brothers and sisters. At home…
I am not always right about him, but I am right about the things I want for him. I want him to have all the virtues that seem to be going out of fashion: honesty, a respect for the law, compassion and a curious intelligence. Mine is certainly not a modern attitude because i refuse to be his pal. I am his parent and I will not retreat from that responsibility. I will not give up my parenthood with all its difficulties and loneliness (and its bills) to become my son’s pal. I will not encourage him to think along with his generation that life is one joyride. I allow him his Beatle cut and his passion for Presley. He must allow me my passion for his good future.