It is the end of the day, and Finn is in my office at his usual computer time, but today, he is sitting at my table with me. Computer time is something that is earned by appropriate participation in the regular school activities, and Finn had a rather spectacular tantrum over the women’s history project earlier in the day. It felt like too much, and he wasn’t going to do it, and he spent a number of fruitless minutes under my desk in protest before we finally got to a place where we could break it into steps.
I am flipping with him through his binder to look at the assignment, when something else catches my eye. There is a permission slip which Finn has defaced, scratching out the initial label and scrawling his own label over it. Permission, it says now, to give my child EXTRA HOMEWORK.
“Finn, what’s this?”
“Obviously, it’s something my mother won’t sign.”
With almost cinematic timing, said mother shows up at that moment. Finn circles the room anxiously as we read the slip and the words around the ones he’s written.
“Finn, this is for sex ed.”
“I know that.”
It all comes out in a hilarious and heartbreaking and complicated jumble, with Finn blushing and stammering and asking rhetorical questions that are well outside the scope of this blog–he doesn’t really want to be hitting puberty, period, but if he has to do it, he doesn’t want to talk about it, and if he has to talk about it, he won’t do it at school. Finn looks at his mother and then walks away still talking–“I trust you, and only you, to tell me about this stuff. I don’t want to hear about it in a room with thirty kids in it. I don’t want you to sign it. So it says extra homework.”
And it hits me, in that moment, so many things hit me at once. How Finn, who is all about controlling his environment because he is historically so challenged by controlling himself, is suddenly confronting a new thing he has no power over. The complicated look on his mother’s face, as she is gobsmacked simultaneously by the enormity of the task ahead and the beauty of his trust in her. My own realization that this child who I first met as a self-centered six year old is now becoming a young man, now really getting ready to enter the wider world. And he’s every bit as awkward as all of the rest of them–he’s every bit as awkward as all the rest of us, I guess–but we’ve got him to the station and the train is almost there.