When we were looking at houses a few years ago, there was this really great mid-century modern we saw. Kelly went crazy for it. I have to admit, it was pretty damn cool: geometric angles everywhere and a back wall of floor-to-ceiling plate-glass windows. But I put the kibosh on buying it.
I told Kelly I thought it was perfect for two men, but impractical for four. He looked at me as if I was a couple of gyros short of a combo plate at the Greek Souvlaki. But I realized that our little boys were going to be young men before we knew it.
It’s not quite been four years since he and I had that conversation. And last week I took Gus shopping for shoes, and had to buy them in the men’s department. He wears the same size shoe as I do. Now granted, like most of the other men in my family, I have kind of small feet. But the kid is still four months away from being in middle school!
He and I have a special dad and son event to attend in a couple of weeks: the school’s maturation program. Oh yeah, I’m sure that won’t be uncomfortable.
Actually, we’ve already talked to him a little bit about what he can expect from puberty. I’m guessing that this maturation program will go into greater scientific detail. It may even lead him to ask a few questions. I just hope they’re not about what’s going on with the girls. Because when it comes to females, I’m not going to know much more than the pre-teen boys in the room.
And that’s what makes this so interesting for me. On the one hand, I know exactly what he’s about to go through physically — exactly what I went through, exactly what all guys go through. On the other hand, an important biological distinction guarantees that his journey to manhood will be very different from my experience.
I suspect that at one time or another, just about every son argues that his dad doesn’t understand what it’s like to be so deeply in love with a girl that it hurts. Or that the kid is unexplainably willing to make all sorts of stupid decisions based solely on the possibility that if he does, the girl may notice him.
But in my case, that’s absolutely true. I don’t.
Sure I pined for boys. I had more than my fare share of secret crushes. I locked myself away in my bedroom listening to music that spoke only to me, hating the world because some boy told me about his date with this girl, when all I wanted to hear was him ask me out.
Yeah, it’s similar, but it’s not the same. It’s apples and oranges.
I hope that from our time together at this maturation program, we can build an understanding that allows him to share everything he wants or needs with me. I hope he won’t let the fact that I’m gay, and he’s showing every sign of being straight, become a barrier to communication.
Believe it or not, there are some aspects of the dramatic physical and emotional changes he’s about to experience for which I’m actually prepared. Just after he was born, I bought a collection of essays about fatherhood. One bit of advice has stayed with me for all these years:
“Never ask your 14-year-old son what he’s doing in the bathroom for all that time. He’s doing exactly what you did.”
Hey, like father like son, I guess.