It hit me like a football to the back of the head. Confidence is fleeting, I thought. I used to have some, but where has it gone? It's a haunting feeling, knowing it was there one minute and gone the next, like that favorite pair of sunglasses that grew legs and walked away unannounced. Apparently I had been storing my confidence supply in the claw-footed bathtub of my psyche. The one with an apparent leak. 'Cause it's gone, baby, gone.
The timing is wretched. First, I lost (most of) my job. But then (and more upsetting, it seems) my son's voice dropped an octave and he started giving off strange vibes. My vibe-reading told me that he suddenly had no interest in carrying on a conversation with me and that my opinion on anything and everything was completely irrelevant. Pesky, even. There were stronger vibes, ones that invited me to cease from interacting with his friends, teachers, coaches, and any other acquaintances that met him first. He would, I surmised, admit our relationship to others strictly on a need-to-know basis.
It's not just me, either (which helps my confidence a smidge). Ryan took him to school one morning after a dentist appointment. He walked in the building with our son, only to find himself suddenly several paces behind. He started to say something to him in the crowded hallway and was met with a quick "We don't know each other" glance, followed by a bionic stride to distance the two of them by at least two zip codes. Guilt by disassociation.
"It was the strangest thing," Ryan said to me afterward. He confronted Christian about it later that same night, who plead innocent.
"What was that all about?" Ryan asked him. "I work with kids your age all the time. I'm young and cool. Why would you be embarrassed of me?"
I hated to break it to him, but stating that you're young and cool sort of immediately invalidates the claim. Christian whatevered us both with a shrug and went downstairs in the basement to obliterate rival villains/sports teams/spy networks with his Playstation controller.
"I feel like he's lost to me," I said. The words tumbled out of my mouth before I'd even had time to think about them. But that's how it feels a lot of the time. Sure, there are moments of lucidity, when his pre-teen self bobs to the surface to mingle with us---he might laugh at one of our jokes or voluntarily remain in the same room---but they are bittersweet moments that never last for long. Sooner or later, a text comes through on his cell phone, and he dives back down into the deep blue new world of his adolescence.
I find that every time I talk to him, I'm telling him what to do, what to straighten, what to pick up, what to tuck in, what to comb, what to read, and what to take his feet off of. It's like an involuntary act, a form of Parenting Turrets Syndrome, which has so much less to do with his need for regulation and so much more to do with my need to remind myself that I'm his mom.
I had confidence before Christian was born, right up until the moment they put him in my arms to send us home from the hospital together. Any confidence I gained after that point was hard earned, but eventually it came. I got comfortable in our routines, and for a long while I sort of knew what I was doing. I should know by now that those feelings of self-assurance (particularly in the realm of parenting) are the quiet before the scream, the calm before the storm, the smooth side of Life's sandpaper.
My friend once said that her children were taken over at age 12 by alien life forms, only to be returned mostly unscathed at age 20. She came to accept it, expect it, and eventually laugh about it. It seemed like a sweet anecdote to me at the time. You know, when my kid was six and liked to snuggle before bedtime. (Waaaaaaaaaaa!)
This afternoon I ran an errand, heading to a place I hadn't been before. I plugged the address into the GPS in my car and put the car in drive. I pulled out of my driveway, and was flooded with memories of using that GPS every time I stepped outside my door when we first moved here. I practically needed it to find the mailbox. Back then I couldn't imagine the day would ever arrive that I would drive out on my own, knowing exactly where I was going and precisely how to get there. I honestly don't remember when I stopped needing it every day; it's been quite a while now. I guess it's just the way things go. The unimaginable slowly becomes the norm. The days we think will never come arrive without announcement.
I'm going to remind myself that it's a good thing.