Feelings...Nothing More Than...Damned Men!

Men! When will they ever "get in touch with" their damned feelings?!

The Wisest Man in the Universe (you know, Dad) said this day would come.

"Those boys of yours will have a hell of a time finding wives," he said. "They won't be able to find one that measures up to their mother, and that's what they'll be looking for, you know."

I think he was alluding to my compulsion to prove myself on the IronMom circuit...You know, the marathon competition where you bake chocolate chip cookies every day, serve meals made from food products that are not pre-packaged, chauffeur the kids to school and soccer practice, all while serving as mentor, guide and concierge.

Well, the day has arrived. Adam has his first real, true girlfriend...and they are so disgustingly in looooove...They call each other "My Pooh."

Someone, quick, gag me!

I was prepared to hate her. I mean, for pity's sake, she's a blonde...while also managing to be super smart, wicked funny, and undaunted by adults and ferocious snapping schnauzers.

What's not to love?

All right, I'll tell you what's not to love...Amanda got my rock-faced, iron-willed son to express his true emotions! Do you realize I have been trying to do this for lo these seventeen, almost eighteen years and have yet to crack the little bastard?!

When Adam was seven, the dentist said he wanted to pull the rest of Adam's baby teeth. He wanted to allow the adult teeth space to grow in. Well, my boy wasn't having that, not one bit of it! He pitched a little fit and as we drove home in the van told me he was not going to have his teeth pulled.

I glanced at him in the rearview mirror and saw stone. No contorted kid grimace. Stone.

I know the kid is terrified. This dentist wants to give him a cup of juice with knock-out drops in it a la Jonestown. Then, while Adam's sleeping, the guy intends to commit mayhem inside the kid's mouth. There will be blood. There will be pain. There will be ice cream at the end of the rainbow, I announce.

Stone. "I'm not doing it!"

I sigh. It's one of those "teachable moments."

I pull into the driveway, unbuckle my seatbelt and prepare to get to the root of the problem. Adam needs to face his fear. Only then will he feel less overwhelmed and see the logic of the situation.

I walk back to the rear captain's chair and face down my surly child. "Let's talk about this, honey," I say in my best therapist-y tone. "Are you scared?"

"No," he says. "I'm just not doing it, that's all!"

"Well, now, honey, the dentist is trying to make room for your big teeth. If the little baby ones are still stuck in place, the big ones will have to come in around them. They'll be crooked."

No reaction...Just a steely-eyed glare.

I try and I try to get the kid to talk about it, but no. We are trapped in the stuffy van, locked in mortal combat, daring the other to blink first.

And that was my undoing.

Instead of thinking it through. Instead of giving it a little time. Instead of following the tiny voice in my gut that said...Hey, there's something wrong with a dentist who routinely gives little kids cups of Kool-Aid in the waiting room and then waits for them to drop like flies into the waiting attendant's arms...Maybe it's okay to keep your baby teeth. Maybe that's why God invented orthodontics... I just bulldoze on through and finally lose control of the one little shred of dignity I have left.

I find myself towering over my young son, my arms gripping each side of his chair, looking the seven-year-old mountain right in the eyes.

"You have to tell me what you're feeling!" I demand. "I'm a therapist. This is what I do for a living!"

There is one long moment of complete and total silence. My entire parental life flashes before my eyes, culminating with the realization that I have just reached my all-time parenting low.

Our eyes remain locked together but our souls react as one...We both bust out laughing! Gut-holding, tear-shedding, loud, hiccuping gasps of laughter.

I collapse onto the floor beside him, pull him into my arms and hug him tight.

"You know what?" I say. "You're right. If you don't want to have your baby teeth pulled, we won't do it. We already know you're gonna have braces. What's a few more months?"

His little body relaxes against me and I am forgiven.

But Stoneface doesn't crack like this often.

Many's the big battle where we've gone head-to-head, toe-to-toe, forcing me to bully my way into doing what is hard but also right. Many's the time I've seen the anger, hurt or fear building up like a thundercloud only to drift away without expression.

I have learned to ride it out with him. To sit by his side in silence until he is ready...or not. To bear witness to his pain instead of trying to erase it with denial or easy kindnesses.

We have worked out a way to work through the feelings...Even if he doesn't want to express them like I do.

But now SHE is on the scene. There is nothing SHE can't conquer.

My father is mentor, best friend, and true companion to both my boys. He has been a constant safe harbor in their lives. When their parents fail them, Grandaddy will not.

Adam brought Amanda to meet Grandaddy a few weeks ago...And I knew it was to receive his blessing upon this tender, fragile shoot of new love.

Of course, The Wisest Man in the Known Universe is the font of all unconditional love and approval, so the girl had a cakewalk to his okay.

She liked him, likes him, and he likes her.

In the past year, I have watched my boys skate slowly around the edges of their grandfather's impending departure. I have seen them blow off the opportunities he has given them to say goodbye, or to talk about his leaving. I have watched their two little stone faces and it has killed me to know what agony must lie just beneath the surface.

But SHE tapped the keg.

When Adam told her he might need to leave school for New Bern because Grandaddy was probably dying, SHE lost it. She cried and wailed and showed every single piece of her anguish to him...

And in doing so turned the magic key and released his own imprisoned pain.

He came home, slightly after curfew, eyes swollen, nose plugged and collapsed at the foot of my bed amongst the dogs and my friend, Martha who is Vice Mom in my absence.

And he talked about his feelings.

Just a little bit.

When I called minutes later I said, "How you doin'?"


"You don't sound fine," I said.

"It's a cold. I'm catching a cold."

"Asshole," I said...my pet name for him.

"Turd," he said, chuckling- then "Amanda was crying about Grandaddy and when I saw her, I just lost it..."

Thank you, Amanda. Thank you for giving him the gift of expressing what he feels inside and then showing him it's okay to let others know. Thank you for being his first gentle love.

And don't forget, little girl...I can still whip your ass at Tribond, so you're not the Queen yet!

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