It’s baffling. We’ve just been hurled into the world of teen self-consciousness and it makes no sense at all. Not to the doting ancient parents at least.
‘What are you talking about, you don’t want to come with us?’ the skilled parent grappling to understand this new world might be heard saying.
It’s an overnight transformation after all. The look is one of ‘what is even the point of trying to help her understand’. But understand I sure as hell want to.
‘It’s scorching hot, we’re going for a swim, you love swimming, and it’s high tide so you can even jump in’.
That should clinch it.
‘But there’ll be people there’.
Indeed there will.
‘People who might know me’.
Stranger things have happened.
‘So I want to come and I want to swim but I don’t want to come in-case there’s anybody there’.
‘What’s this anybody?’
‘Oh, you just don’t understand’.
‘Older boys from school. Seeing me out with my flamboyant family’.
‘And then back in school they’d be telling everyone, and no, just no’.
‘Hang on a moment. First of all, since when has anyone older in school given a toss about what the younger boys are up to at the weekend? Second of all, you’re coming’.
There. A bit of parental authority is called for. For heaven’s sake. The rumbling sound of a snowball gathering pace can be heard behind me. Forces are being joined. It wouldn’t be so much fun without him the rumbles seem to say. Which is true. He’s king at leaping in and swimming far out, frolicking and laughing in the glint of the sun. But that was yesterday, wasn’t it.
‘Get in the car. We’re all going. We will not be held ransom in this glorious sunshine by some invisible gang who may or may not notice the younger boy out with his family’. The empathetic mother speaketh. And amazingly, a grunt or two later, we’re on our way. I’m busy considering how temporary the disappearance of my confident, friendly, fun loving, socially adept boy will be when he pipes up from beside me.
‘NOT Seapoint, oh god, they’ll all be there…’
He throws his hood up in the sweltering heat and then tries to make me promise, if he spots anyone, anyone at all resembling an older teen from his school, that I’ll give him the keys and he can go and sit in the car instead. It’s then that it happens. A fit of the giggles starting from the pit of my stomach. I watch him march ahead trying to look inconspicuous as everyone else is practically naked around him. I’m doubled over laughing trying to carry the bag to the beach. I mustn’t be caught. I try to sober myself with thoughts of my beautiful son disappearing down the road of teenage self conscious angst. Of what I can do to be a better mother to him during this time.
‘Take the hood down’ I say catching up with him.
‘You’ve no idea what it’s like mum’ he says, whipping the hood down and scanning ahead to see if anyone has noticed.
‘Maybe not’ I say upping the empathy a tad.
‘But I do know that if you care less about what others may or may not think about you, you’ll be better off. Really.’
‘Those people up on the wall, what age are they, they look like older boys who might know me’. My little pearl of wisdom has fallen on very deaf teenage ears.
‘They’re my age’ I say reassuringly and he strips down to his togs. We’ve timed it perfectly. It’s full tide and it’s a wavy choppy sea. Just how they like it. There’s no getting him out of the water once he feels the lack of prying tell-tale eyes. Canon balls, the lot. Whoops of laughter as they let the waves carry them. There’s a man with a lens on a tripod who seems very interested in catching a bit of the fun. Shush, don’t tell. We head home for a barbeque. They are high with endorphins. Just like the good old days. We hold on tight to it. Repeat it over the rest of the weekend to the delight of all. God knows the day will come when they’ll all be doing their own thing. It’ll be a long day.