Today I welcomed a teenager into my home as the red faced screaming infant that rocked my world thriteen years ago continued on his rough treck into adulthood. It is a milestone that I have been dreading for some time as the wretched it’s-time-for-a-cell-phone- delimma has been making us both crazy. See my kid feels like 13 is the appropriate time for cell phone possession, and I feel like the only way I am going to pay each month is if he produces $60 worth of services in this house. It has not gone well. We have both raged, cried, talked to a therapist, and in the end come to the following agreement.
1) He wants a phone…and I know that someday he is going to need a phone
2) He is not willing or ready to do $60 worth of service per month
3) We love each other deeply and we are going to work this out
So he has a daily checklist, which gets done about three times a week if a remind him and rarely if I don’t, and there is the promise of a phone when he mature enough to complete his chores without my heckling. Today, when he woke up, I hugged him super-tight and made him an omelette. Mike and I took the day off work to take him to the Tiger’s game along with my nephew and a buddy. He was so sweet about his modest gifts praising me for each one.
“Mom, that was the exact iPod case I wanted.” he commented. It was the same case he had admired on a friend’s phone which cost me exactly $3.95 on Amazon, a gift card, and a Wii video game all stuffed into a single gift bag which made up his gifts.
And then we were off to the game. It was a lovely, sunny day and we got there early in time for the White Sox batting practice. He hung over the wall, glove low, pleading with an outfielder for a ball.
“Come, on man. It’s my birthday.” he begged.
And a ball flew through the air popping into his mitt. He ran up to me, “Mom, can you believe it…a ball for my birthday.” No mention of the phone which he never up-wrapped in sight.
And there was so much sweetness, watching his laugh at lunch over chili cheese fries, which I normally never let him eat, throwing peanut shells onto the ground, and give Mike’s friend Dave a running commentary on the ins and out of professional catchers.
As we walked back to the car, I was struck with the joy of today and the mellow pleasure I felt in each moment. Until we got to where the car was parked and it wasn’t there. I mean it was nowhere in sight. Apparently someone had helped themselves while we were at the game, and my newly paid off minivan was gone.
Stunned, I flagged down a police car and called a friend who had been at the game to see if he would give Mike a ride back to our house while the kids and I went to the police station to make the report. We were there for two hours. Sitting in the police station, suddenly I realized this was a really big moment, and the way I responded was going to define my son’s 13th birthday for the rest of his life. Here I had been worried it would be the lack of a cell phone, but instead it was going to be about me and my reaction to this moment.
“Mom, this is a terrible day. Right?”
Looking into those blue eye that are just like mine, I screwed my courage to the sticking point.
“Son, this is a good day. It is only a car, and we are all safe and together and happy.”
And so as we sat in the cement garage of the Detroit First Precinct ignored by most of the officers who are too calloused by daily tragedy to even notice us, and we laughed about goofy memories. Each of us told Elijah the stuff we liked the most about him. When my husband finally arrived, Mike comforted by telling me that if my car is recovered he is going to tell the police the crooks must have let a possum live in there for a few weeks and that is how it got so dirty. I wanted to kill him, but I was laughing so hard it hurt.
Then when we got home he dug one of my old purses out of Eden’s toy box. Since my new super cute one was tucked safely in the trunk of our stolen car.
“See hun, you don’t even need a new purse. “
So today my kids learned these lessons:
When you turn 13 you do not get a cell phone…you have to earn it.
And when tragedy strikes it is never dark or scary enough to consume you if your family is there to laugh with you and remind you of what is really important.
And I have to tell you at the end of the day, it was a really, really, really great birthday. One that none of the Fantes will ever forget.