Fruit Salad

I sat at the table opposite my son and wondered not only at his ability to sound just like his father, but also to eat an entire bowl of fruit salad. A bowl that held at least 9 different fruits in their entirety and while I supposed the bite-sized chunks didn’t mind being nestled amongst each other in the plastic bowl, I did suppose they minded being inhaled without a second thought.

“And if Dad moves for his new job, it might be as far as Norway or something. We might spend six months abroad.” He chomped and fiddled his fork into another piece of papaya.

“Norway?” I blinked my eyes a few times. No words were readily available.

“Well, that’s just one idea. He’s also looking for jobs California.”

All the nights I planned with Joe the best way to move here. All the days spent telling ourselves that the sacrifices were worth it – living in this area we can’t afford – because it was close to them. And they needed me close to them. We were so wrong. Even more wrong than I knew last month. Last week. Five minutes ago. But those words weren’t ready to be spoken. So I stared at his jaw, chewing, and said only, “Wow.”

“It might be fun. And even if his new job is in San Diego, the football is great there.” Always thinking about football. It’s important. More important than me to a fifteen-year-old boy. Normal.

“I think what I’m wondering,” I said, “Is why you’re so ready to move after your dad telling me for the past 5 years how important it is for you to be here, in this particular spot, for the schools and the football.”

“Like I said,” he said casually, piercing a strawberry, “they have great schools and football there.”

“Where I used to live.” I stated. “Before I moved here. To be with you.”

“Uh, yes.” And he looked up and met my eyes, for the first time registering what I was getting at.

I maintained eye contact, holding him with my gaze for a moment before dropping it out of kindness. My goal, after all, is not to skewer him like fruit on a fork. “And you never thought of me as a viable home? If your dad moves, you could stay with me and finish high school – that didn’t cross your mind? To stay at this very important school? And football team? With me?”

The squirming was almost invisible, but it was there. He stared at a green grape and pushed it around with the tip of the tine, slowly, in the nearly empty bowl. “No.” And then his eyes met mine and he stared. ‘It didn’t. I don’t know why.” His eyes were slightly shocked and a little wary. And sad. And tired.

“But the football and the schools are great in San Diego, too.” I said quietly and quickly, taking his point of view. To save …what….? The moment? His feelings? “And it might be fun to move. It’s been a while since you have.”

“Ya, it’s kind of like starting over. It might be fun.” And with gusto, he took in the last bite.

23 Responses

  1. Whoa, there. You forgot the part where you woke up from the dream in which your loved ones were made of salt and razor blades.

    Seriously, you should get an engraved award for getting out of bed in the mornings. Don’t ever let anybody (yourself especially) tell you that you’re not an amazingly strong woman, after you take punches like that and stay standing.

    (I swear I keep reading this thinking I’ve missed the part about it not being true. I just can’t believe the universe is dishing out this much suck to you.)

  2. Leah,

    I know exactly what that feels like and my heart aches for you reading your words. That could have been my life only with a daughter instead of a son. My daughter delivered those types of messages just as casually during her teen years. It feels terrible when our children act as if we aren’t that important. I know how much mother love it takes to hold back when the words don’t make sense.

    It will change, just hold on, stay loving and available and your kids will see the value in how you love them.


  3. no matter how old they get children dont always know that what they say will stab their parents in the heart. a bandaid wont fix it but time will make the hurt less. my heart breaks for you. stay tough.

  4. I’m so sorry. I, too have a 15 year-old son. It’s not football, it’s art, and he lives with me in Ohio and not with his father in NYC where all the art is. I guess I experience it in the reverse. The aching is there constantly. Like a sore tooth that needs treatment and throbs a beat along with my heart, every pulse.

    His dad isn’t set up for him to live there and I have to tread oh-so-carefully around the facts. And try to check my reactions when he talks about moving back there as if it’s a real possibility. Knowing always that he thinks he’d rather live with his father who doesn’t really set limits, who lives in the coolest place in the world, who is like his 15 year-old best friend. Me, just the mother, here to do the work part of parenting–by my choice without his father. Doesn’t make it hurt any less for any of us.

    So hard. So effing hard.

    Hugs to you. xox.

  5. I’m so sorry. This makes me feel especially bad for all the times I unknowingly broke my mother’s heart — it was rare for me to consider that something I was doing, whether it was going off to college or moving in with my dad, would cause her so much pain and sadness. To me, it was just something people did, or something ordinary I was doing, but to her, it was another step toward losing me in some way.

    Hang in there. Big hugs.

  6. Wow….whew…..I just……I don’t think I’ll be able to ever look at papaya without clutching my chest in “mothers agony”.

    Yikes, that fecking stings.

    I’m sad, I’m sad for this, this betrayal? Darn it, kids are so hard.


  7. It’s probably harder for your son than he lets on. Being 15 is hard enough without having your parents living in different states. As for some of the other comments re your son’s reaction, I don’t think they’re really fair. What’s a kid to do? What’s the proper way to break such news? How is a child supposed to choose?

    Best wishes in what must be a very difficult time.

  8. @mari – i agree. being 15 or any teen is brutal and i wouldn’t want to be in his position. and just to clarify – i didn’t and wasn’t asking him to choose because that would be unfair. i instead wondered and asked why i wasn’t even thought of as an alternate home. that is what i still am curious about. if i’m not thought of as a ‘real’ parent, then of course he wouldn’t have considered it even for a moment. and it’s extremely hard to think of me as a ‘real’ parent, since our living arrangements have been the way they’ve been for so long.

  9. @LP – Sorry, no, I didn’t mean to criticize your reaction. I thought you handled it the best you could. Of course his father should have mentioned all this to you in advance (as I’m sure you know). I hope you guys are able to work something out.

  10. Damn. I’m so sorry, Leah.

    Kids can be so self-centered. I don’t think it occured to me to consider my parents’ feelings until I was WELL into my 20’s. The truth is, at 31 it’s still pretty hard for me to do.

  11. Words come to mind such as: blindsided, brutal, hurtful, ow ow ow. Why you had to hear this from your son is probably a useless question to ask, but your reaction sounds pretty damned controlled considering how you had no warning whatsoever. It takes some big love to move that quickly to his viewpoint while you were mentally trying to rehinge your jaw.

  12. Oh.
    My heart just constricted.
    *deep breath*
    I’m so sorry. At his age everything is an adventure and as you know (because of your gentle “save” of his emotions) it wasn’t meant to hurt you.
    It just … does.

  13. Leah,
    I don’t have children. I just have to put this thought out there for your consideration (and please understand that I realize “research” has little meaning in real life and with real emotions):
    according to research…. when a child is very secure in the love and affection of their parent/s, they are more inclined to be adventurous and less inclined to continuously return to their parent/s for reassurance.
    I’m sure it doesn’t feel good to be “taken for granted,” by your son, but it is not because he doubts you as a parent that he feel confident “going off without you” but rather that he has the utmost confidence that your love for him is unfailing. Since as I said I don’t have children, I’m not really sure, but isn’t that one goal of parenthood? That your children are confident in your love for them?
    I think you must be a great mother, and I’m sure your son knows this.

  14. Wow. Painful episode, but it’s so beautifully written that I’m in awe. Amazing the complexities and emotions you were able to convey with so few words.

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