Spencer is fourteen as of two months ago. Last night, I was sitting at my computer, minding my own business, when he came in and asked me a question. This is not unusual for him - or for any of my children - especially in the evening. They're often wandering in and out, asking questions, chatting for a little while, then going back to their own projects.
What was unusual was the question. It was a big question. It was the question.
"Hey Mommy, how old were you when you started dating?"
Now I, of course, answered with immediate and unflinching honesty.
"Twenty seven. And I was 30 before I had sex."
No, what I really told him was the truth: that I'd officially started dating when I was around his age.
He was pleased with this information, and didn't miss a beat before asking, "Well when can I start dating?"
"When you're twenty seven."
But the fact was, I didn't have any magic age for him. Like anything else, I told him, it would happen when it happened. We'd deal with it together when the time came. That answer seemed to satisfy him, and he wandered out again... only to return about 18 seconds later.
"Mommy. How do you do that thing on Facebook? Where it says so-and-so is in a relationship with so-and-so?"
I laughed a little bit. I couldn't help it. He wanted to know how people made their relationship "Facebook official."
"It's just an option in your profile. You can go in and edit it, and then it just shows up."
He thought about that for a second. "Does the other person have to be on Facebook too?"
"No," I told him, "You can say you're in a relationship with anyone."
He left again. I chuckled. It's funny, this new age of dating. It's when he came back for a third time to ask, "So if I meet a girl, is it better if I get her email, or should I just get her number so I can text her?" that it hit me:
Not only am I old, but I'm also profoundly and hopelessly out of touch with the times. I have no idea how people date in 2011. Now if he'd asked me how to fold up a note into a neat little triangle, I'd have been able to help him. If he'd wanted to know about slipping said note into the slats of his beloved's locker, I'd have been all over it. I could have even helped him make a mixed (cassette) tape of songs I'd recorded from the radio, and shown him how to wrap yarn around his class ring so it'd fit on his girl's finger.
But Facebook? Texting? Emails? None of that existed when I was his age. My gosh, was it THAT long ago? I'm 37, not 87! But alas, it's true. It's a whole new world out there. I was 14 over 20 years ago. And because I met and married my now-husband when I was still in my late teens, I never knew the joys of waiting for a returned email (only the joys of waiting for a returned note to be passed in between gym and science class) Never knew what it was like to have a picture instantly text to me (only what it was like to bring my film to the one hour photo developing place a week after I took them) I never knew the sadness of having 200 friends watch at once as my relationship status changed in a blink from taken to single (only the humiliation of having to tell everyone, one at a time, until the word had passed... that yes, I'd been officially dumped again)
Is one way better than the other? Was I missing out on the wonders of communication that were yet to come? Or is the other way around?
I don't know the answer, but I do know that the realization of this gulf between my teenage son and my teenage self made me... tired. The whole thing was making my head spin, and it was making me tired.
But the conversation wasn't over yet. I'd already gone to bed to watch TV by the time he came to find me again. "Mommy. How do I set my phone to have a different ringtone for different people? So like when I have a girlfriend, I can have a special song just for her?" And finally I had a good answer, the answer that would give my poor
The phone that Spencer and Paxton share used to belong to Mike, and I have enough trouble with the intricacies of my own phone, let alone someone else's. So it was with honesty - and relief - that I tenderly looked him in the eyes and said,
"You'll have to ask your father." And so he did.
And I went off to sleep, dreaming of a simpler time.