It has been my experience that my boy doesn’t call often and when he calls his conversations generally consist of very select topics or direct questions. When my phone rang and I saw that it was my boy calling, I was especially sparkly inside. He wasn’t calling to ask for money or to share some news about a new sports shoe being released that I needed to “help” him buy. I felt warm and sentimental because he called and engaged me in a free, open conversation.
That particular day he called to engage his mom in a casual, light-hearted conversation and my thought bubble read, “How sweet!” I thought, “My, how he’s growing up” and “What a cool kid!” This conversation with him resembled conversations with my daughter which felt odd. Calls from the girl are at random times and she often calls or texts to just ask me what I am doing. She has called me to keep her company on a road trip or she has called so that I would be her companion during a meal in whatever city she found herself visiting. So, while my needy, maternal, empty-nesting self longed for this call to be all about me and my son’s need to spend time with his mother (during his out of town visit to a friend’s house), I knew in my instinctive mama world that this call was more about something else.
And then he said, “Hey Ma, I’m gonna do something that might make you mad – get my ears pierced.” I am not really sure how I managed the balancing act between my personal opinion and the need for me to let him make some life decisions on his own. I have always told my kids that their time at home was a time for them to explore and try new things because I would be there as a safety net to catch them. I also told them that there were some things I said “no” to because perception matters in classrooms and in society for some people more than others. For my brown son, I always coached him on how “not to fit the description” and having earrings was a part of “the description” so I always said, “No.” And my “no” was not negotiable.
In order to make it through the next phase of this conversation, I had to add some humor. I asked, “So, is that what this call was about?” Then, I said, “When we get off the phone, I’m gonna look to see how long it took for you to get to that.” He laughed and replied, “Twenty-five minutes.” Why twenty-five minutes? Because he thought “that was a good amount of time.” After a little more laughing, I asked, “Why now?” He said because “I’m old enough.” He followed that statement with this one: “I never did it before because I didn’t want to hurt you.”
He was right that he was old enough to make a decision to get his ears pierced. The fact that he considered my feelings also suggested to me that he considered the lessons taught about image and perceptions and that he believed he could manage that aspect of his life. The hard truth was that I really could not stop him from doing anything. So, I made a decision to demonstrate trust and affirm his thoughtful, respectful consideration of my opinion and my feelings because that was special and mature. I gave him my blessing with a reminder of my why. He said, “Aight Ma, I feel you…(pregnant pause)…Ah, I won’t be getting a tattoo.” And we both laughed out loud before we hung up.