Goin’ with the Flow

This article, and a few others on parenting, have appeared in the Needham Patch, a local on-line newspaper. You can view this article online at: http://needham.patch.com/articles/goin-with-the-flow

I have a nine-year-old son. He’s an earnest, sturdy young man. He benefits from having a mother and a father in one household. He worships his dad and seeks him out for consultation on life’s pressing issues: baseball card stats, why one brand of athletic wear is superior to another and tricks to use when trying to beat a friend in a game of Stratego.

I am often left in the dust, personae non grata. I provide the food and merely return the dirty clothes to his room, cleaned, folded, and silently stored away in the drawers. I am not consulted or considered in matters of importance. I am not Dad and I am a girl.

But suddenly I am highly valued because my son, my delightful, young lad, has a crush on a girl and he desperately needs my help.

Eliot is growing his hair out. He says he wants The Flo. What is that you may wonder? It’s when the hair near your ears curls up and out, like wings, but more up than out. This is very important to young Eliot. I guess there is some famous quarterback named Tom Brady who has a hair cut like this. But since I’m just Eliot’s Mom, I really don’t know who he is. Eliot explained it to me, very slowly in case I missed anything. Having The Flo like Brady makes you cool. That’s it, no more and no less — just cool.

This is so important to Eliot that The Unspeakable has occurred; he has asked me for my help. He asked me to put rollers in his hair to achieve The Flo because he needed to beat his friend Neal in creating a quality Flo so that Eliot’s love interest, Julia would deem Eliot the more worthy suitor.

So here we were, in the bathroom, growin’ The Flo.  I complied with my son’s wishes and put rollers in his hair — exactly as directed — not my way, his way. While Eliot repositioned my fingers, I used this opportunity to talk gently about how it’s Eliot’s job to pay attention to girls’ feelings and not inadvertently hurt them.

I was terrified of spoiling our moment by talking too much. My independent son needed me! I was the only one in the house who could help him grow The Flo before school the next day. I had a valuable skill — I could put rollers in my nine-year-old son’s hair and now he would love me!

I relished this attention. I basked in the light of his sustained gaze. I thought, “Please don’t let him ask me if he can get a tattoo next because I might say yes!”

I’ve been checking in on Eliot over the last week to see how things are going, wondering if the hair-do would outlast the love interest. Things have been a little odd around here. Homework is getting done without a fight. Eliot has been practicing his recorder music on a more regular basis. A new novel has appeared on his nightstand, a book recommended by his friend, who he really likes, who happens to be a girl.

These innocent transformations in my son remind me of many classic love songs and the power and influence a partner can have on someone else. Themes such as “you gave me wings so I could fly” or “everything I do, I do for you.” I’m watching my very young, 21st century son be positively influenced by another person. A universal human theme is playing out before me. I’m reminded of the timeless themes of friendship and the power of affection.

Yesterday, after filling out his Weekly Reading Log without being reminded, Eliot slapped his pencil down and said in an irritated tone, “Mom, you have GOT to take me for a haircut! I’ve got to get rid of this hair, it is so itchy.”

Yes, true-love outlasts a hair-do. Now that’s really going with the flow.