I had just left work on Friday when my phone began to ring. Normally I wouldn’t answer my phone while I’m driving, but I was stopped at a stop sign so I fished my phone out of my pocket and answered it.
“Dad,” Baby B’s voice burst from my phone. “Can I go to a friend’s house?”
“Um, I’m on my way to come get you right now,” I told him.
He response was lost amid a storm of static.
“What? You broke up…”
More static assaulted my delicate ear, then the connection was lost. Evidently my decision to take the backroads home from work decided to pay some unexpected dividends in the form of me inadvertently hanging up on my son.
When I finally made it to their mother’s house to pick them up, B came flying through the front door to greet me. Not because he was excited to see me (dammit) but to ask me again, “Can I go to a friend’s house?”
“Son, we have to get home quickly so that Grandma can go to work,” I explained. And I really wasn’t just making up an excuse. My mother was home with C and I needed to get home so she could get ready for work and then, you know, go to work.
“Well, can my friend come over?” he asked with equal parts hope and pleading.
“Not tonight, kiddo. We are watching Baby E (my niece) until at least 7. Next time give me some more notice so we can work something out.”
By this point in the conversation his mother had stepped on to the porch. “Why don’t you get in the car so I can speak to your father for a minute,” she told the boys.
That didn’t sound good at all, and I braced myself for an unpleasant conversation.
“The friend he wants to come over,” she began once both boys were out of earshot, “is his girlfriend.”
“Oh…” was all I could manage to say.
She went on to tell me about his girlfriend, how they went to the same school last year, that she goes to their church, and that they don’t get to see each other very often. She said that his girlfriend is a really nice girl and that she thinks I’d like her. I reigned in my commentary on what she thought about who I’d like.
After we got home I talked to B. “So, tell me about this friend.”
“Well, what’s his name?” See what I did there? I knew it wasn’t a he. I’m so clever.
“It’s not a he. It’s a she. And her name is K.”
“Oh, she’s just a friend, huh?”
At this point B got a stupid grin on his face. He knew I knew and now he was too embarrassed to say anything. I went on to explain to him that he needs to tell me these things up front because there’s absolutely no way I would not have noticed the two of them were twitterpated once she was there. I may be dense, but I’m not that dense. I told him we could try to arrange something for later in the weekend.
Sunday rolled around and his girlfriend ended up at my house. It was funny to watch how awkward B was in front of me and his girlfriend. They talked about their friends and their Instagram accounts and who liked their pictures and who posted what and the whole time I was thinking…is this what kids talk about today? Then they walked around the block for a bit until her uncle came to pick her up.
I had so many things I wanted to say to B, but I didn’t. I wanted to explain to him how people change. I wanted to tell him that there would likely be many women. I wanted to tell him to guard his heart. I wanted to explain how people sometimes grow apart. I wanted to warn him about heartbreak and break ups. I wanted to, again, warn him that if I’m a grandparent before I’m 40 I’ll kick his ass. I wanted to tell him the first girl I loved is completely different from me these days. She changed from someone I got along well with to a very strict Bible-thumper. Her three children were given biblical names. No judgement here (honestly), but that’s not the type of person I could ever be with.
I kept those musings to myself, though. Some things he’s going to have to learn on his own. Besides, he wouldn’t listen to anything I said anyway.
B and K have many changes in their future yet to come. They are only high school freshman, and they still have another three and a half years of high school to mold them, shape them, and torture them.
There was a moment, though. There was a moment when the gravity of the situation pulled me asunder. K at one point began running her fingers through B’s hair, fixing some stray hairs, and it really hit home. Am I ready for this? Am I ready for my children to be in romantic relationships? Am I ready to help them navigate romantic relationships even though I am horrible at them? Will they be just as horrible at them as I am? Please don’t let them have the same shitty luck in love that I have had.
My little twins aren’t so little any more. They are young men. They will be 15 in less than a month. A year from now they will be driving. In three short years they will be adults, able to vote, smoke, and join the military, if they so desire. I know I’m not ready for any of that. I know I’m not ready to let go. I am not ready to give up the sweet little boys who used to tell me bed-time stories. The little boys who used to tell me they wanted to grow up to be strong just like me. The boys who used to want to do everything with me.
I’m not ready to get old, but more than that I’m not ready for them to get old. I want my babies back.
But time doesn’t care.