Monday, September 17, 2012

My Baby Left Me

My first born son, Matt, turned 15 the other day.  This is a picture of him taken last week, when he was about four years old and more or less cooperating with me in the whole aging thing. 
Cute, right?   ...Lately, he’s been absolutely incorrigible.   He not only turned 15 without my permission, he also grew about seven inches overnight (he’s as tall as Bill now, plus or minus that ½ inch that kicks in when one of them remembers to stand up straight) and he can do more pull-ups than me. 

Besides the physical aging, he’s been regularly ticking off the family “rites of passage” with annoying efficiency.  He acquired a stinging sense of humor over the summer,  a love for books that hit him on a slightly deeper level than Harry Potter, a desire to discuss them, and a knack for one of my new favorite games, “Find the Heresy!” in whatever sermon, lesson or song we are listening to together. 

I’ve been homeschooling him for the past three years for his sixth, seventh and eigth grades.  I do this because middle school is miserable, and as a friend of mine pointed out once, “I want my kid to be in a safe place for a few more years.”   …Yup.  Besides, I enjoy my kids.  We laugh together all the time.  They are every bit as fun as the people I knew in college with an additional bonus; I can send them to time-out if they get annoying. 

Homeschooling is so much fun, as a matter of fact, that when I realized middle school was over and I was about to send my baby into packs of howling wolves, I tried to talk him into hanging with me for a while longer.  I told him what he was about to face: early mornings, bus rides, annoying teachers, belittling peers, etc. etc.  Then I made my pitch and said, “So, I could always homeschool you for a few more years.  There’s no reason to rush things!”  He merely paused the video game, turned toward me and said, “A person can only take so much of you, mother.” 

I’m going to miss him! 

I realized though, that, since I was about to send him into a cess-pool of danger and sin, I needed to prepare him for what awaits.  After the self defense courses, installation of the iris-cam, and memorizing the Bible from cover to cover, my next step was to give him an article from The Art of Manliness (love that blog) about how to make conversation.  

Matt is a clone of his father and his father is an engineer.  They don’t actually talk to people.  Both of them are so quiet that I believe on an average day they exchange more X box controllers than syllables.  Matt read the article through the same day I gave it to him, thanked me three times over that week for telling him to read it, asked why I hadn’t given it to him SOONER (it was just published last month), and keeps coming home from school telling me how he used principles from the article to make new friends.   Thank you God!  Occasionally, we hit the nail on the head.

The next step was to introduce him to a book I’ve been reading called, “Women in the Middle Ages,” published in 1978.  I know it sounds unpromising as parent/teen reading, but I have found it to be both informative and quotable. 

For example, apparently, there was a problem with monasteries/convents co-existing in the middle ages.   At first, the Catholic Church insisted that women’s convents could not exist except as chapters of male monasteries.  After all, one must have a priest in order to give confession.  However, some church leaders feared that the situation would impede the sister’s chastity.  Apparently, there was a debate sometime after 1100 during which Cistercian Bernard of Clarivaux made this point, “to be always with a woman and not have intercourse with her is more difficult than to raise the dead.  You cannot do the less difficult, do you think I will believe that you can do the more difficult?” 

Thus, women were ousted from the monasteries and left to run their convents bereft of male leadership. 
Things were relatively quiet until a group of rogue monks calling themselves the Premonstratensians attempted a “fresh version of the double monastery.”  This was short lived. After the death of their founder, they also expelled women from all their mixed settlements. The deciding Abbot wrote: “We and our whole community of cannons, recognizing that the wickedness of women is greater than all the other wickedness of the world, and that there is no anger like that of women, and that the poison of asps and dragons is more curable and less dangerous to men than the familiarity of women, have unanimously decreed, for the safety of our souls, no less than for that of our bodies and goods, that we will on no account receive any more sisters to the increase of our perdition, but will avoid them like poisonous animals.”

I was so enamored with this passage that I showed the whole thing to Matt a few days before 9th grade.  I wanted him to be prepared.  He paused the X-box, read the passages, handed the book back to me and said, “Well, ….I think he’s right about the anger part.” Then, he went back to killing zombies. 

Amen Son!  I told him to memorize it, but he ignored me.  So instead, I just recite key phrases to him every morning while he’s on his way to the bus stop.  If I skip the fluff and start off with “THE WICKEDNESS OF WOMEN IS GREATER THAN ALL THE OTHER WICKEDNESS OF THE WORLD…”  and talk quickly, I can usually get to, “MORE CURABLE AND LESS DANGEROUS TO MEN THAN THE FAMILIARITY OF WOMEN”   by the time he gets to the stop sign.   He never responds, of course.   He just shakes his head quietly, no doubt amazed that he has such a wise and caring mother.  Of course, my other children who are sleeping started to complain about the daily yelling, so lately I’ve been shortening it to, “REMEMBER THE ABBOTS!”  Then I watch him get on the bus and endure the daily stab, knowing that part of my heart has just walked off and is about to disappear around the corner.

So, anyway, “Remember the Abbots!” has become sort of a code for us and I was able to use it just the other day when I took him to the first Young Life meeting for our school.  You can read about Young Life here:  My son was willing to check out a few meetings, but, since he’s been out of the loop and homeschooled for the past three years, he didn’t know anyone at the meeting.  I drove him there myself and was planning to drop him off and scoot, but he asked me to stay for a few minutes.  The meeting was at a local home.  We walked to the back yard together where there were about 25 teens milling about like electrons within a cloud.   It was a little intimidating.  Right away some girls came over and started talking to Matt.  Luckily, he Remembered the Abbots and got involved in a soccer-type game of Frisbee while I started talking to some of the Young Life leaders and tried, as a 46 year old mom, to blend in with 15 to 17 year old high school students. 

When the Frisbee game was over, I tried to leave again, but again, Matt asked me to stay.  All the other kids were clustered around a few tire swings, so I hinted that it was really time for him to saunter over and start to mingle.  When he didn’t go, I suggested that we go together and started walking.  He yelled, “NO!” so loudly, that I believe half the crowd turned to look.  If I was blending in before, it wasn’t happening any longer.   There was nothing to do then but take out my phone and glide silently over to the nearest picnic table while I waved him off. 

He hesitated, then walked, alone, over to the crowd of perfect strangers and started to mingle.  Another family rite of passage.  Not exactly the same thing as killing an animal with a spear, but daunting all the same.   After a while, my presence as a lingering parent became so ridiculous that I found out when to pick him up and walked back to my car.  As I was driving away, I saw the students walking into the house to start the meeting.  I yelled, “Remember the Abbots!”  and waved goodbye.  Then I headed toward home with that nagging sense of emptiness that I always have whenever my kids are more than twenty feet away. 

When I picked up Matt that evening, he nearly talked my ear off, telling me all the details of the night.  He’s been hanging out with some of the rougher kids in the high school.  I told him before he went to school that his purpose was to be “salt and light” and to look for the kids who were usually by themselves because they were the ones who would need friends the most.  Apparently, one of the young life students rides the bus to school with Matt and saw him talking with an undesirable.  That night, she took him aside and told him “You know, you really shouldn’t be talking to that kid.”   Matt told me that he answered, “I know, but how can I be Jesus to him if I don’t talk to him?”  I smiled quietly inside and started mentally ticking off all my fellow Jesus-Freak parents who would be hearing about THAT comment, when Matt gave a little smirk and then he said, “I got her.  Didn’t I mom?” 

Four more years.  I get four more years with him, and then he’ll be going off to college.

I wonder sometimes, if I fully understood how much I was going to love my children, whether I would have been able to muster the courage to have them.



  1. You are a kindred spirit to me! I have been telling Luke all a long that girls are bad! He sort of rolls his eyes, but he knows I love him! I may try the walking him to the bus quoting that passage, but I am afraid that he may run too fast for me! I also feel the same as you do with loving them as much as I do, my heart gets ripped open so often. I really am having a hard time knowing I have such a short time left with them! Thanks for sharing! I love your writing!!!! Connie

  2. Beautiful last sentence. Absolute truth!