Thursday, September 15, 2011

Being on My Best Behavior

Little Babe is an 11th grader.

Little Babe is in 11th grade.

Little Babe is a High School Junior.

No matter how many ways I phrase it, I simply do not believe it, even after spending more than three hours last night traipsing from session to session with similarly bleary-eyed parents of my son's schoolmates at the Open House program of the excellent SAR High School in Riverdale; even after being reassured by my older kids that there are things about their little brother I do not know. (I was a teen during the seventies. How shocked would I be?)

Little Babe is reading Hemingway and Twain and Fitzgerald and Salinger and Buber and Agnon.

Little Babe is thinking of colleges and whether he wants to spend his gap year in Israel.

Little Babe has a NY State Learner's Permit and can apply for his license in February after 50 hours of accompanied driving.

Little Babe has sideburns and furry legs that remind me of our Pomeranians.

Little Babe does stuff I will never be able to, like create original songs on Garage Band.

Little Babe...okay, enough of these expressions of shock and awe, the melodramatic moaning over the passage of time and life's ephemeral nature and gosh, but they grow up so darn fast!

My youngest kid has passed the midpoint of his adolescence, yes, but what I wanted to note is the fact that because he is back in school, I have to adjust my affect, brush up on my behavior, vacuum my vocabulary, hide evidence of excessive pursuits of fun and modify my summer self until I morph back into something resembling a responsible mother.

I must suddenly exude the aura of one who reads The Wall Street Journal and not The Weekly World News (now online); one who fears Internet predators and isn't a cyber-stalker herself; one who frets over grades and nutrition.

(I actually do care -- deeply -- about nutrition and a bit about grades but over the summer all bets are off and it's hard kicking my butt back into gear. See my previous post.)

I should really stop feeling sorry for myself; after all, this metamorphosis happens every year. At the first event of the school year, I'm conscious of arriving just a tad too tanned, a little too loose-limbed, a couple of degrees too casual. Even at a school like SAR which taunts me with visions of WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN had it only existed when I was a turbulent teen, I have to fight the impulse to sneer at the idea of sitting still at a desk, chase away cynical thoughts about everything from the curriculum to the outfit the teacher is wearing, suppress mean thoughts about my peers, i.e. -- the other parents.

Just like a high schooler, I note those who are small and those who are large... especially those who are thinner than me. (A growing number.)  I take mental stock of fashionable attire...or the lack thereof. I catalog visible signs of aging. I stare in chagrin at the svelte, well-dressed, supernaturally young-looking women, mentally accusing them of Botox, liposuction and anorexia, not to mention prescription drug abuse.  I surreptitiously stare at the good-looking guys.  (A shrinking number.)

I wonder how I rank.

It is raining outside. Though the weather is warm, summer is unquestionably over. The tenth anniversary of 9/11 has come and gone. The hoofbeats of the High Holidays are getting closer.

Both in school and out of school, the transformation is underway -- spirit of the summer wind captured and cultivated, sculpted into something that looks like an adult woman, someone's mother.

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