My son turned 13 today and I didn’t write a post called “13” because I was blocked. I still am. But here’s the thing. Writer’s block always contains the seeds of its own demise. It can block you from what you want to write about but it can’t block you from writing about writer’s block itself. When writer’s block blocks your subject, it becomes the subject. So fuck you, writer’s block. I win.
When I tried to write about my son turning 13, I couldn’t do it. I’ve read all kinds of arguments about the way we should or shouldn’t write about our kids, about what’s off limits, about parent blogs messing up kids’ lives by making them use hard drugs and become porn stars but I’ve never paid it much mind. I just write what I want. There’s so many rules right outside the door. What good’s a blog if you can’t light things on fire?
Nonetheless, my son becoming a teenager resisted articulation. I was blocked. It refused to be said.
I waded through clichés about how HARD it’s going to be, being a teen. And it is. The breach between being a boy and a man can swallow you whole. But it felt wrong to dwell on all that so I tried to invoke the joy of adolescence because it’s in there. Remember? Do you remember your teenaged friends? The extent to which adolescence was hard created a kind of super fondness for the people who helped you through it. I remember Dan Parker and Bryan Rypstra like old war buddies.
And for all the awkwardness, ignorance, and confusion that accompanied the gruesome mutation into a sexual being, it was pretty damn cool too: those jolting new waves of desire without clearly defined aims. Stacie Scott’s ass was just different somehow. I wanted to—arghhh—do something to her, you know? New feelings, new thoughts, and—good God—so many forms of new actions that created secrets and guilt and the certainty that I was mad but wondrous. My God this shocking body. That poor cat.
I remember writing Kerri Wolf love letters. I remember waiting to give them to her, nervous to sweating. I remember kissing in the basement like we were starving to death with our ears trained to the possibility of footsteps on the stairs. That wasn’t so bad. It was strange and beautiful; it wanted to be poetry.
So turning 13 and beyond was both terrible and wonderful but the fact remains that all these ideas recoiled when I tried to address them in relation to my son’s 13th birthday. And it’s only here, in this 7th paragraph (again, fuck you writer’s block), where my block begins to find its logic. It is precisely this unsaying that defines my son’s movement into teen life. This inability to speak about him, his resistance to being said, the fact of his emerging own life apart from our relation creates the substance of the block.
He’s stepping into the light of being the main character in a story that evades the reach of my narrative. He’s not my character to write anymore. He needs to be partially released to his friends and the perplexity of girls (or boys).
Happy 13th, birthday, J. I ran full throttle as you toddled toward the street and I said no no no when you tried to play with knives. But now, instead of so actively protecting you, I have to allow you to erect a wall—this writer’s block—between us, so you can thrash around alone (sometimes), and forge your way into becoming who you are. But I’m not worried one drop. You’re such a delightful boy, full of jokes and sparkle, and I know I’m going to love the man you become.
When I made your birthday card, after I decorated the front and wrote “Happy Birthday” inside, I paused, wanting to write the truest, most honest thing I could muster. So I wrote “I love being your dad”.
I love being your dad.