"What?" he asks when that inward grimace rises to the surface.
"Nothing," I say, trying to suppress the memory again and appear fine again.
"No, really," Alfs asks, "What?"
Sometimes I give in. Sometimes I tell him about the moments when I felt particularly foolish and was sure that everyone was looking at me. Or the moments when the feelings went beyond foolish to absolutely mortified and wanting to crawl under a rock. The missteps and misunderstandings. After all these years, it's amazing how those memories make me feel small and lost all over again. Adolescence, it seems, dies hard.
Now I watch my own son make his way, and it can be wrenching. I remember taking similar steps and risks, with good and less-than-good results, trying to figure it all out. When one of the less-than-good results happens for Alfs, I bite my tongue. I don't tell him, "I know." He doesn't want to hear that from me, an old lady for whom adolescence happened centuries ago. I try to be quiet but there, let him feel what he is going to feel and be available for however he needs me.
I can't possibly know the exact feelings my son has, but I have a pretty good idea. Those adolescent feelings and some experiences are rather universal it turns out. I can't save him from adolescence, as much as I would like to. I can't feel those feelings for him, or shield his ego from hurt or embarrassment, or make different choices. It's something we all just have to go through, and hopefully come out the other side a little more wise and compassionate. And with some cringe-worthy stories to tell our children one day.
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