I found out about Chase’s relationship status last week standing in line for water ice. He was a few miles away at a drum lesson at the time. But as I waited with his brother, a Mom of one of his friends informed me that he had a new girlfriend. I had suspected as such, but he had neither confirmed, denied nor offered up any information in the last several weeks that would have put me out ahead of the community knowledge curve.  Still, I was grateful for the intelligence. Otherwise, he may have fallen in and out of love a few more times before I had a chance to pop my head into the cone of silence and set up shop.

Perhaps the mother really is the last to know.

I would buy into that credo if not for Chase’s older brother who is far more generous with sharing the elements of his life. With Noah, I am often the first to know about his victories, challenges, and musings – both happy and troubled. We talk things through, make plans to address to speed bumps, and carry on our separate lives, lightly but firmly tethered. I know I have a life line to Chase as well, but it is just much, much longer and takes far greater skill to reel him in.

Why one child is so connected and the other aloof is another post for another day.

In Chase’s defense, the topic of “girlfriends” is not one that simply rolls off the tongue in casual conversation with your mother, especially if she hasn’t been in the loop from the beginning. Revealing that you “have one” or “no longer have one” must always feel as though you pulling the pin on an emotional grenade and handing it over, praying to God that it’s a dud as the last thing you want is your mother selflessly throwing herself upon you with only your safety in mind. I try hard not to be that Mom. But the fact of the matter is, fessing up is embarrassing. I get it. Most of my children’s love life will (and should) be off limits to me. But I really would like to know their fundamental status before the neighborhood does.

If Chase invoked his fifth amendment rights only when it came to matters of the heart, I could cope. But the kid gives up very little else voluntarily. Yes, he always answers my questions; and I ask many each day. But if left unprompted, he could probably go days, even weeks without relaying a single pertinent detail about his world outside the walls of our home.

Unfortunately, all of my ideas to alleviate the communications barriers between us are likely more mortifying than the barriers themselves.

  • A suggestion box-like model where anonymous notes offering pertinent information can be discreetly dropped…
  • A safety word which when uttered indicates there is a conversation to be had…
  • The formal deputizing of his older brother who, if called into service, would like nothing more than to rat out speak on behalf of his little bro.

Alas, none of these suggestions promise to yield much more than a raised eyebrow and a scurrying away before Mom really goes off the deep end.  My husband fails to take any issue with Chase’s silence because, well… let’s just consider apples and trees.

Which leaves me alone with my thoughts and a familiar question I often ask myself when I am toiling with an issue around which everyone else seems just fine: Whose problem is this anyway?

The answer is always the same: It’s mine.

The range of feelings that wash over me when I make a late discovery about my children spans the spectrum from amusement to real hurt, with the latter rooted in my ongoing need for relevancy. Being relevant – or “mattering” – doesn’t come into parental play until the kiddos begin making their own decisions around issues where once you had a dictatorship. Being relevant is really easy when you are living their lives for them.  As soon as they have a say – and don’t want or need your input – it is a clear sign that your work is done. At least for the time being.  Dealing with that reality is all in the attitude.

You can wring your hands and sob:  He doesn’t need me. Gulp. Sniff

Or you can jump for joy: HE DOESN”T NEED ME!!!!! Woooot!

I think over time we as parents transition from mourning our children’s independence to celebrating it. And I am somewhere smack in the middle of that personal shift. It is not lost on me that – at their ages of 13 and 15 — there are more and more elements of their lives that I DON’T want to know about than do. I guess I just still want to decide what’s fair game and what’s off limits.

But the new reality is that – at least with Chase — I am on a need to know basis – ironically knowing less but needing more. And as with every passing phase, I will not hold back the inevitable, but rather let it wash over me as we move further down this path called life.

That night when Chase arrived home from his drum lesson, I recounted the conversation I had with the other Mom and pulled a fake hissy fit about being the last to know. He smiled sheepishly, admitting that the news was indeed about a week old (although I think he mercifully shaved off some time so that I wouldn’t feel as badly.)  And he agreed to get me the information first next time,before quickly launching into a lecture about the injustice and subsequent perils of going out for water ice without him. It seems we both have some work to do about keeping each other in the loop.   And, we still need each other – at least for a little while longer.


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