By Rachel Pieh Jones
A teenage boy is a mystery hiding behind a shag of unkempt (he wants it that way) hair. To solve the mystery, or to at least gather a few hints on the way to solving it, sneak into his room while he sleeps and gently swipe that hair to the side. Surprise! He is still your baby.
A teenage boy is a ravenous beast capable of devouring an entire chocolate pudding pie in one sitting. And then he will ask for ‘seconds.’ Mothers of these hungry creatures might spend an inordinate amount of time at the grocery store or in the kitchen cooking and teaching him how to cook. The sustaining delight is that to this young man, Mom’s food is always the best food. Own it, Mom, even when he finishes that chocolate pudding pie before you’ve had a bite.
A teenage boy is a bearer of that peculiar and distinctive boy-smell that every locker room, dorm room, and bedroom share across the world. Stale and moldy food, dirty socks, sweat, deodorant. There are scary things in these boy spaces. Just like you wouldn’t stick your bare hand into an elementary school boy’s backpack on the last day of a long school year, I recommend entering a boy’s living space with caution. Or gloves and a gas mask.
A teenage boy is the sweetest-thing-ever when he plays punching bag with his younger sister and lets her knock him down and tickles her until she squeals. And at night when he constructs complicated railroad loops with Thomas the Tank Engine tracks and pretends he’s doing it for the younger kids but can’t quite conceal his pleasure. He is still a playful kid at heart and the best men, in my opinion, remain that way throughout their lives. Let him play hard and play hard with him.
A teenage boy is a zombie when forced out of bed before eleven a.m. This zombie is best greeted with cereal or a big glass of milk or a banana or some other edible item. Don’t try to engage in meaningful conversation for a while. Good luck to all his pre-lunch period teachers.
A teenage boy is a teller of actually funny jokes. All those years of laughing at nonsensical knock-knock jokes have ended, welcome to the really funny stage when you will wonder where that fantastic sense of humor came from.
A teenage boy is a bundle of contradictions. He has muscles now, real ones and not the ones you pinched and praised when he flexed in front of the bathroom mirror at age five. He is faster than you, stronger than you, maybe taller than you or will be soon. He can use that speed and strength to avoid his annoying mother and he can use it to serve you—carrying groceries or airplane luggage, mowing the lawn, fixing the car.
A teenage boy is an almost-man’s body with an almost-but-not-quite man’s voice. This is precious because in that voice Moms hear our toddlers begging for Cheerios or snuggling in before naptime. And in it we also hear the future, our own dreams and his. And we hear hope, we’re giving this young man ourselves and we’re giving him to the world in a few short years.
A teenage boy is the terrifying and beautiful next generation, filled with potential and balanced on the razor-edge of disaster. Capable of rocking our world to the core and capable of changing it for the better.
Rachel Pieh Jones lives in Djibouti with her husband and three children: 14-year old twins and a 9-year old who feel most at home when they are in Africa. Her work has been published in the New York Times, the Christian Science Monitor, FamilyFun, Babble, and Running Times. Visit her at:Djibouti Jones, her Facebook page or on Twitter @rachelpiehjones.