The Perks of Hanging Around a Teenager

I’ve been spending more time with my godson Lucas this summer because between work and life and other things, I wasn’t seeing him as much this last school year. And I missed him. He’s fourteen now–both bigger and stronger than me–and I hit that moment when I began to fear that maybe I didn’t know him anymore.


I still know my godson, though I’ve found there’s more to learn about him.

I remember when he was in fourth grade and read his first book I hadn’t: that is when he realized that there were books in the world I hadn’t read. Now there are all sorts of things he’s consumed that I haven’t, and he’s been sharing some with me–music, stories, movies. We’ve always bonded over these things, and it’s fascinating to see how that has grown and changed and become more an exchange than an adult teaching a child. It’s awesome, though sometimes surprising–in a Oh he knows about that now? kind of way. And of course he does. He knows a lot of that. We haven’t been raising an idiot, and I love how comfortable he is talking about things a lot of kids–a lot of adults–aren’t. He challenges my comfort level sometimes, in a good way. He always has.

This last week, I was on vacation on the coast of Maine with Lucas and his family, so we got a more-than-usual amount of time together. I taught him how to make a cake and buttercream frosting and brownies, and about how it is right and good to lick off the beaters when you’re done using them. We talked about Robot Chicken, which he’s just discovered, and he got me listening to the Arctic Monkeys. Together, the bunch of us watched The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Lucas’s favorite movie right now, and, wow, what a great movie. There’s a scene that is just so beautiful early in the film where the main character, Charlie, is leaning against the wall alone at a school dance watching two other characters, including the girl he’s crushing on, dancing to “Come On Eileen.” Charlie watches and watches and finally forces himself to walk toward them–such a risk!–and they take him into their dancing. Who doesn’t know that moment when you see the thing you want and are afraid to move toward it? I feel that all the time, still, and so often people don’t try, and you just know watching it that this difficult thing this teenager is doing is going to be the thing that saves him.

And it does.

I want to be that person who walks toward what I want, and I want my beautiful godson to be that kind of a person, too, but it’s hard when you’re living life instead of living inside a movie where things are bound to make some kind of sense in the end.

I think often of the first time I met Lucas. I was 25 but already broken in a lot of ways and wondering how I was going to handle having another person in my life, but I fell in love with him immediately when I saw him. He was a little jaundiced, so they had him under a light with what seemed to me an inordinately large IV needle stuck in his tiny foot. I wanted to cry and then I got mad and started to read his charts and try to figure out how we could get him out of there, though I calmed down when I realized he was sleeping and calm and happy as he could be.

I guess it’s typical for people to think about who a baby might grow up to be, but I never thought about that with Lucas. I just thought about how much I was looking forward to sharing things with him, the things I loved best in the world because those seemed to me to be the only things that could possibly be good enough to match the wonder of his new human being. That has proven to be true, but I’ve shared life with him, too, some of the harder things–the death of my husband, his father’s illness a couple years ago, the myriad ways the world does not live up to our expectations. If you asked me all those years ago, I could never have told you anything accurate about what my life or his life looks like now, except that I would have said he’d still be one of my favorite people on this earth.

And he is.