The other day, I promised to pick my eighth grade son, Shaggy Hair Boy, up from school. Somehow, I mixed up the times and ended up getting there way too late. No one was at the school when I arrived.
"Don't worry," said Boy in Black, who was in the car with me. "It's a nice day. I am sure he started walking home." The school is miles from our house, but not an impossible walk, so he was probably right.
But I felt awful that I had missed him. And then I started worrying about him walking home. Inside my head, of course, Shaggy Hair is still a little boy, shy and quiet. Inside my head, he still has that innocent freckled frace and short hair, not the wild mane of curls that currently hides his whole face. We started home, taking the route he would have most likely taken.
"Stop worrying, Mom," Boy in Black said to me. "He is not a little kid anymore. He is a teenager."
He paused. "Teenagers are what people are afraid of when they worry about their little kids walking home alone."
That line put things in perspective for me.
We came around the corner, and I saw them: Shaggy Hair, dressed in black, his long hair in his eyes, sauntering along. His friend Skater Boy, also in black, was next to him, tossing down a skateboard and leaping on, moving along the road. Boy in Black was right: they looked like teenagers now.
And we live in a culture that fears teenage boys. I wondered what it must be like to be a teenage boy - and realize that.