Every so often, when my husband gets a hankering to terrorize our 11-year-old son, he’ll ask Jack whether he has a girlfriend.
Sometimes Randy will ask how many girlfriends Jack has.
Occasionally he’ll inquire, in his best Barry White voice, “How’s it going with the ladies?” (The word “ladies,” of course, sounds like “LAY-dehhhzzz.”)
This exchange causes, as my mother would say, major conniptions.
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Jack gets a pained expression. He rolls his eyes or shoots them like daggers in his father’s direction. Sometimes he leaves the room.
Sometimes he remains calm, not even looking up from his homework or his dinner, and simply says, “Harumph.”
One day, friends tell me, my son will fall in love – or at least start caring about what he wears, how his hair looks, how he smells and what girls might think of him.
Maybe so. But these days, he simply can’t be bothered. Anything having to do with girls, love, romance, signs of affection, terms of endearment and all things amour is the stuff of Jack’s nightmares.
Valentine’s Day is excruciating.
So is that Delilah show on the radio. (“Love someone toniiiiiiight! …” Aaaaack!)
If forced to watch a romantic comedy, Jack will try to enjoy the funny parts but literally turn his face from the screen or cover his eyes during kissing scenes. (He still hasn’t forgiven J.K. Rowling for mucking up the Harry Potter series with those ridiculous Harry-Ginny and Ron-Hermione liaisons. What gives?)
It occurred to me recently, when my son was writing a thank-you card to a classmate and again refused to sign, “Love, Jack” – opting instead for the generic, non-committal “From, Jack” – that this dislike for the lovey-dovey might be because, unlike many other children his age, Jack actually takes this stuff seriously.
Proclamations of love shouldn’t be easily tossed about like so many empty promises and Facebook “relationships,” am I right? Love is serious business.
I respect that. Who can blame the kid?
Though, now that I think about it, Jack has no problem saying how much he loves Super Mario Galaxy 2, Beyblades, grape Gatorade and popcorn shrimp. So there goes that theory.
During a recent puberty lesson in sixth-grade science class, Jack completed a worksheet about his goals, dreams and expectations for the future. His priorities, he wrote, are finishing school, getting into college, earning his doctorate and launching a lucrative career as either a lawyer or video game designer.
Get married? “Maybe when I’m 30,” he responded. (Translation: “When I’m old and decrepit and have nothing else to do.”)
Children? Absolutely not.
“I don’t want children,” Jack wrote, “because they’d be a distraction.”
I thought about putting up an argument, explaining how I used to think I’d never have kids either, but that now I can’t imagine my life without his sister and him.
Instead, I just chuckled, pulled my little boy close and tousled his unkempt hair.
“Oh Jack,” I said. “I sure love you.”
“Love you, too,” he said.