It would appear that I have a new job. One for which, at last, I am actually receiving a modicum of recognition from my increasingly demanding "client" - never too much of course and certainly nothing too showy, but certainly the odd grunt and occasionally an accompanying nod. Very rarely I am graced with a smile - although it often comes out as more of a grimace. The hours are unpredictable, the pay is non-existent, and heaven forbid that I should dare to expect a life of my own outside of my duties! But at least for a short while I feel appreciated - sometimes - and that in itself something to be treasured.
Over the past few months you see, my "client" has morphed in to someone quite unrecognisable. He seems to have lost most of his power of speech, usurped by a series of grunts and shrugs. His easy smile has all but disappeared, his face instead serious and studied as he taps out endless streams of texts on the mobile that seems now to be stuck to him. He avoids eye-contact wherever possible (most certainly in public places) and regularly huffs or shrugs his shoulders. I'm concerned about his mood swings, but he turns away, brushes me off and sighs loudly when I try to cheer him up or engage in conversation. There was a time not so long ago when he was be thrilled with all the jobs I would do for him! We got on like a house on fire and it seemed he loved spending time with me as much as I did with him. In fact in those days he always came to me with questions, jokes, gossip, and general chit chat - and always with a smile. But all that has changed, although I'm certain I'm not actually doing anything different. So it's a bit confusing to say the least.
Most of the time when I now come in to contact with him, I am dismissed as an annoyance, an embarrassment, too old and so very irritating! He doesn't use those words, of course, but the body language (loud tutting and theatrical rolling of eyes) say it all. The things I do that used to be funny - even "cool" on some occasions - are now nothing more than deliberately engineered acts of insolence designed to torment. Apparently I simply "don't get it", and he tells me regularly that I "just wouldn't understand" - to the point where it's perfectly clear that he thinks I'm actually an exceptionally stupid human being. I'm pretty sure that I will continue my progress up this particular career ladder, and in the not too distant future I will be able to add "hateful" to my growing collection of accolades.
But for right now, when I'm being his Taxi driver, at least the eyes don't roll and the eyebrows don't furrow... well, not while I'm being useful anyway! This morning it was a 7.30am lift to the brocante in the next town, where he was setting up a stand to sell some of his stuff to make money. That was fine, but he refused to give me a pick-up time. When I conferred with my friend Vera (another 'taxi driver' who was also there) she told me that 6pm would probably be good. So I told this to my "client" who by this time was with another of his business colleagues - so the behaviours had naturally increased. He immediately rolled his eyes and snorted "Well, can't you come any later than that?"(incidentally, when I eventually DID turn up at 6pm to collect him, and his stand and the items he hadn't sold, he'd already left and gone to a friend's house...)
Yes, I'm talking of course about my 14 year old son, who over recent months has embraced his role as teenager with open arms - well, no that's not true. More with a slouch and a show of CK boxers because his jeans are pulled down so low that I'm surprised he can even keep them on. And you know what? I honestly thought this would never happen. Yes, I knew of course that he'd grow up... and I was actually looking forward to it. What I hadn't expected, though, was the sudden surly behaviour and accompanying disdainful looks that tell me he no longer values the things I say or do. You see, we've always got on so very well, and we have always had a close and open relationship.
They say that pride comes before a fall, so perhaps it now makes sense how I would feel nothing but slight amusement and a degree of smugness on hearing or reading other peoples' stories about their troublesome teenagers. I would picture my own gorgeous boy, imagine ruffling his hair and holding him close to me, and brimming with misty-eyed pride as he says "I love you most in the whole wide world Mummy!" his smile beaming across his little face as he squeezes me as hard as he can. I'd listen to the stories of door slamming, angst and fall-outs and think to myself, in a self-satisfied sort of a way: "No, my Dylan will NEVER behave like that - it's impossible!"
But, unfortunately, as I've discovered, it's not impossible. Far from it. I don't know how it happened, I can't even pinpoint when it really started. But happen it has. And how! Don't get me wrong, it's certainly not that I love him any less - if anything I love him more (much to his obvious annoyance) as I can totally empathise with his struggles to find his place and fit in, since he's now neither a child nor an adult. But it seems that I am unable to do many things right anymore - and you know what? Although I'm an adult, and I know what is happening here, I still often find myself smarting from his latest put-down or obvious contempt for whatever it is I've just said or done.
His aloof coolness and sudden set of opinions and knowledge about all things (bikes, computers, phones, fashion and, of course, the opposite sex) suddenly makes my experiences totally irrelevant"Yeah, I knew that already mum!" or completely wrong "No, mum, you're wrong, this is how it works!" And so, stupidly, I do my best to keep the situation light and to convince him that actually I DO sometimes know what I'm talking about - and there you are, in that very instant I've fallen for it and am trapped! I'm trying to justify myself to a superior being who clearly already has all of the answers... thank you very much!
My friends, it appears, are allowed to keep their coolness in his eyes - well, sometimes at least - but I have certainly lost any hope whatsoever of being remotely current... for now. I'm completely past it. In fact last night while we were having dinner with Brian and Julie, he happily announced that by the time I reach official retirement age he'll already have had me put in to a home! To which I retorted, giggling, that he'd jolly well better have made his fortune by then if that's what he's intending, since I'll only go to the most luxurious of places.
The thing is, it's all so serious. And, so many times, inside I want to laugh out loud - but that's simply not allowed. So instead I keep my serious face and nod along with him... most of the time. I confess there are occasions when I simply can't resist, and I do or say something he doesn't want me to. The worst, I think, is after I've dropped him off at the lycee. Around the corner, of course, so that nobody can see me. As I drive around the one-way system to get back home, I'll often pass him just going in through the front gates, and so I'll give him a subtle wave, or sometimes just a smile (a toot on the horn is absolutely out of the question) - but even that is now met with a black look and a rolling of the eyes.
But I won't give up. He's my son, and I love him, and I think it's a good sign that he's able to express all these emotional changes. To me, it means that he's content and secure. And that's everything I could possibly ask for. When I was a teenager myself, I was certainly not allowed to show any such behaviours. My little sister and I were at our guardians' house, and we had to both be good girls and not cause a fuss. It's been the root of many of my subsequent battles with self-esteem, so I choose in the main to rejoice in Dylan's regular show of grumpiness. Knowing that, actually, it's because he feels secure and loved. So I now look for things to be grateful for when he's playing his teenage role so well.
Late last night, for example, I was going to make myself a hot chocolate so I went up and asked him if he'd like one too. Without averting his eyes from his computer screen he said "No thank you" (three things to be thankful for there - I was allowed in his room, he'd actually spoken rather than grunted, and he'd also said thank you). So I came back down and made one for myself.
Just a few minutes later, I heard him in the kitchen, opening the fridge and stirring something in to a cup. So I called in to ask him what he was doing. "Making a chocolate drink" he replied (again, the "uh.... DER!" was just lurking beneath the surface of that particular communication).
"Oh, but I just asked you if you'd like one and you said no?" I replied, scratching my head as I was clearly missing something of importance here.
Something solid (the cup?) was put down rather heavily on the work surface, and I could imagine the hands going on the hips "No, you offered me a hot chocolate. This is a chocolate drink"
Right. OK. Good. All makes perfect sense now sir.... so I smirked, kept quiet and reverted back to writing my blog.
As I said at the beginning... Taxi, anyone?