My son has reached the pinnacle of his pre-adolescent career. I know this because he will no longer let me brush his hair.
Now this seems like no big deal, to anyone who has not parented a child. But to this mother, who pushed this particular nine-pound child into the world eleven years ago, it symbolizes the end of an era. I feel like I should be sending out announcements.
I mean, most children scorn their mothers when they see a hairbrush coming towards them, especially if we are late for church/the party/the open house/school. I learned a long time ago, kids rebel if there is any sense of urgency. And if we’re really running late, they run in the opposite direction.
But this morning was different. He was brushing his teeth, and to save time, I stood behind him and reached out with the round brush.
“Mom!” he shouted. “Do NOT brush my hair.”
He used his big voice, the one he has only recently acquired. It is the kind of voice kids get when they grow up, the voice that says, “If you ever want to visit your grandchildren one day, you will stop what you are doing right now.” He also looked me square in the eye when he said it. I didn’t argue, I just set the brush down for him, instinctively.
It’s been a long time coming, but the signs have been there. Six months ago, he developed a sudden interest in his clothes. The sensible navy corduroys I got him for Christmas were left untouched, still in their box, right next to the new striped cotton sweater.
He wanted a pair of Vans. Then he wanted t-shirts with crosses, skulls and dragon tattoos on them. Then he refused to wear carpenter jeans. His one pair of dark skinny jeans have holes in the knees because they are the only pair he’ll wear.
I should have known the day he came home from school, talking about Puberty Class.
“The girls go to a different classroom. And they’re going to give us deodorant when we finish taking the class,” he announced over dinner.
The next week, he came home with a shiny red stick of Old Spice, and put it on the bathroom sink. I no longer have to argue with him about taking a bath, because it is his own private ritual now. Done with his nightly bath, he steps out of a cloud of steam after using all the hot water in the house. He’s not huddled against the cold, or climbing over the couches like a wet dog. Instead, his hair is washed and combed, and the towel is casually wrapped around his hips as he saunters to his room.
He’s becoming a young man, I think to myself as I sit on his bed and tell him goodnight. He still likes me to rub his back, but just for a minute. So I kiss his clean forehead and close the door behind me.
Now I just have to get used to the fact that my son smells like a freshly-showered car salesman.