Boy Meets Girls

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Teenage Romance

I looked at him. His bony shoulders slumped almost to his bony knees. "Oh, honey," I said, "it can't be that bad."

"Oh, yeah, it definitely can be that bad. See, Shannon sends me this text message saying to meet her outside the theater and when I get there she goes, 'I really like you, and not just as friends.'"

"So you said?" I prompted.

He looked at me, bewildered: "I have no idea."

"You didn't say anything?"

"I think I might've said something like, 'Uh, thanks,' and then just, you know, left."

At which point my sympathies were altogether with Shannon.

My one comfort here is that Sam is far from the only teenage boy I know who lacks the Cary Grant gene. When three other boys and their dates, along with the boys' parents, gathered at our house before the homecoming dance last fall, I stood in the doorway and studied the four gorgeous girls standing in my family room. They all had gleaming hair and strappy sandals and polished nails and elegant dresses and white, white teeth -- and the kind of poise that their slouching, rumpled dates had never exhibited for a single minute of their entire collective lives. The father of Sam's best friend joined me in the doorway. He, too, stood and stared. "What do you think these girls could possibly see in our guys?" he asked. "It's like they don't even belong to the same species."

Sweetheart Roses

I'm truly trying to help Sam in his quest to be a decent date -- and, I hope, a good and loving partner some day -- but I admit that I vacillate wildly in the way I think about his budding romances. Two years ago I went to pick up the corsage I'd ordered for Callie, his date to the junior high formal. I'd been very specific in ordering it: a wrist corsage made of tiny, delicate flowers that would dry in a pretty way, in case Callie wanted to save it. And when I went to pick it up in its little crystal box, it was absolutely perfect. But as I looked at those exquisite sweetheart roses, that dainty spray of baby's breath, my eyes filled with tears.

The florist was shocked: "It's not what you wanted?"

At the time I wasn't sure why I was crying, exactly. All I know is that suddenly I was thinking of the roses Haywood gave me the day Sam was born. And then I remembered the flower I wore on Mother's Day the year Sam was a baby, when all the mothers at our church got roses at the door. And then I thought of the grubby bouquet of April violets Sam picked for me when he was 2, holding them out and smiling as proudly as though he'd personally invented flowers -- and had managed that magnificent feat just for me.

Everyone tells new mothers to enjoy this time, that the sweet days of babyhood don't last. But no one ever told me how sweet these days of heartfelt talks are, too, and how fleeting. Because even as I coach Sam about girls, I know that his foray into dating is another step he's taking away from me, that one day the roses that make me tear up will be nestled in a bouquet another woman is carrying down the aisle to meet him.

Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, April 2007.


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