He really is adorable. I don’t know if many people say that about their junior high school child, but I can. Well, at least this week I can. Last week, Liam started school, seventh grade, and is really spreading his wings. And when I say that trite saying, I mean, he has grown socially this summer to know what he would like to do to be less socially awkward and fit in a little more. It is a really big achievement here, one marked with maternal pride and my brain going to see how to keep up this momentum.
One thing Liam wanted was a vinyl sticker for his water bottle. We upgraded from the smaller flask size to a larger, and he thought a sticker or two would be cool. I told him to look on Amazon and see. I said this, not really knowing where to buy them but thinking he would be able to pick out a few…hundred that is. They are sold in packs of hundreds or more, so deciding not to do the Costco sized route of paying the same price for a hundred as you would for one anywhere else, we went to the mall.
Now, I want you to recognize the fact that I was trying to do the right thing. I thought we’d make an afternoon of it, buying stickers, getting a Coke and a pretzel, maybe a little impulse shopping if something caught our eye…And I was feeling really good about being the cool mom (well, cool to Liam) and encouraging this new demeanor. But what is that Scripture about pride? Oh, yes, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” ~Proverbs 16:18. Yes, I lost my cool crown quickly when I took him into the skateboarding store to see their stickers. Some, upon first glance, looked like they would pass. And I would point to one and say, “Well, maybe this one would work?” and see Liam’s face, eyes downcast, saying, “Um, I don’t think so mom.” So, after three attempts, I decide to show Liam I really am trying, and I ask the twenty-something year old working there if there are any other places we could maybe find some age appropriate stickers for his water bottle. The young man looked sweet as he tried to hide his snicker, and suggested I order online. Poor Liam was so embarrassed his cheeks took on a carmine color.
Determined not to be dissuaded, we left that store and I immediately saw right next door there was Spencer’s. Now, back in the day (eons ago, apparently), Spencers was the edgy cool place I would beg to go and buy a poster. Or if I had enough baby sitting money saved, a t-shirt that said, “Foxy” or some other hideously ridiculous saying. I even said to my son, “Wow! This is lucky! I used to love going to this store when I was allowed to.” My sweet son’s face was returning to his normal cinnamon pigment, and asked what I meant. So I told him it was usually for older kids but sometimes I was allowed to go in and buy a poster or socks or something and I always felt so grown up. So, with that preamble, I reach for the imaginary cool crown, straighten it on my head, and we enter…
Gehenna. Good gracious, that store is filled with rot and I was so hyper focused on finding the counter at the back, where the stickers would possibly be located, that I didn’t immediately notice how unsuitable this store was. When I saw the counter (facing the back of the store at the back of the store), I halted and L slammed into my back. The poor kiddo was so shocked he did what any baby bear would do and stuck close to mama. Except wonder mom was oblivious~until I wasn’t. The female (I am assuming human) sneered at me as I looked at her in horror. My arms went out to shield Liam from what was here, and his head is down and he’s mumbling, “Mom, this is inappropriate. Mom, don’t look, it’s inappropriate.” We did an about face, stuck like glue, and hoofed it out of the store. I looked at him in the middle of the mall, and said, “Oh, my, I am so very sorry about that. I really had no idea what it had become.” He looked at me and said, “Why did we go in there?” Somehow, my “I was trying to find a few cool stickers for you…” seemed so lame.
To say I felt horrible is an understatement. No, nothing bad happened, and no, I don’t think he is scarred for life. But he trusted me to help guide him on fitting in and this is what I came up with. My goodness, I learned a lot that day. I know I won’t always be able to shield him from the nefarious and odious, but it is an endeavor I vowed to take when I first became a mother. I know there will be inappropriateness and improper, things that are incongruous to our values that we strive to live by, but it is my privilege and commitment to teach why.
So, the story actually ends on a high note, because we then went into the Hallmark store (who doesn’t love that place to lift your mood?) and then walked past a surf shop that had stickers zapped on their window. We went inside and Liam found four “super cool” stickers that he deemed not only appropriate but amazing!
Fast forward to today, his school’s first “school Mass” day. Now that he’s in junior high, he has to wear a special button down Mass-day shirt, distinguishing the upperclassmen from the rest of the grammar school. He was up hours before school, all dressed and ready to go. I mentioned that I should probably iron his oxford, at least to get the fold wrinkles out. He complied (unlike my other children, years before) and then buttoned his shirt all the way up, making sure each button was fitted up to his chin. I smiled as we got in the car, thinking sometimes we just have to let them set their own coolness. I know that deep in my heart, but part of this mama-bear’s heart just wants him to fit in and just “click.”
I got to Mass early and sat opposite the junior high so I was able to see his grade come in, helping their kindergarten charges genuflect and get into the pews in a timely manner. Liam walked tall, confident that he is right where he is meant to be, completely comfortable and respectful. My heart just swelled~love for Him who created this beautiful soul, love for Liam and all that he is, and love for Wade, and our family, who have helped shape this fine young man. When he turned to get into the pew, I saw Liam had his top button of his shirt undone, just like every other junior high student. This kiddo doesn’t need his mama to teach him to be cool~he’s got it all figured out on his own!