« Falling In Circles | Main | Life & Death In Michigan »
Wednesday
Jul272011

13

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.

References (1)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.
  • Response
    Response: Beautiful Writing
    It was WRITING. The kind of writing that has a voice and personality so strong that it doesn’t matter if you’ve read the author’s previous work, or if you know the family or the circumstances.

Reader Comments (62)

Aww.... so sweet! I'm going to become the cheek-pinching great aunt I liked to pretend didn't exist until I read those last four lines and it took over my brain. Happy Birthday to your man-boy, and may he always hold onto his childhood wonder of the world.

July 27, 2011 at 8:48 PM | Unregistered Commenterloren

I feel like a voyeur. I love reading your words.

July 27, 2011 at 8:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterMelanie

I think that, at 13, there isn't anything you could say that would matter more. Happy birthday to you both.

July 27, 2011 at 8:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterMr Lady

Dammit, you always give me goosebumps.

July 27, 2011 at 10:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterDory

That is the most awesome thing to say.

July 28, 2011 at 3:05 AM | Unregistered Commentermisty

Three days later, I'm about to start my own post about being blocked. After all, it's only 3:45 in the morning, and obviously, this is a priority. Happy birthday to your boy, and happy anniversary to you.

July 28, 2011 at 3:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterZoeyjane

i can't wait to see what you write when i turn 40 in 4 years. 6/7/15. make sure you write it down someplace safe.

July 28, 2011 at 6:17 AM | Unregistered Commentermuskrat

It doesn't seem like you've got writer's block at all. And I can imagine that it's somewhat terrifying when your kid turns 13. I have 3, and I still have that to look forward to.

Glad that you write whatever you want to write, though, in spite of everything that's said about what you can and can't write about your kids. You're bound to say something they won't like, but chances are it won't be one of the things you thought it might be. My hope is that my kids will learn that it's ok to say what you want to say (assuming of course you can back it up with logical thought).

Happy Birthday, Black Hockey Jesus's kid.

July 28, 2011 at 7:35 AM | Unregistered Commenterwagthedad

Happy Birthday to your son. I have my own "almost" 13 year old girl. That comes with a whole other bag of goodies. I love her. She is funny, witty and unique. It hurts to let go a little at a time. I only hope she wants to come back after adulthood. I love your closing remarks in the birthday card. I might "borrow" them. Unfortunatly I cannot give you credit because then she would want to come and read your blog..........maybe when she's older.

July 28, 2011 at 8:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterCortney

My daughter turned 13 nearly a year ago...and I could barely talk to her on her actual birthday. I wrote her a letter instead. Because 13 was the beginning of that transformation when she stops being mine. I'm so excited for the woman she will become. Is becoming. But damn, 13 was hard.

July 28, 2011 at 10:00 AM | Unregistered Commenterjill (mrschaos)

Love to read your "blocked" words. My kids are in the chasing after stages all under 8. Every day I think, if only you could make your own lunch, wipe your own butt, and, yes, let me wipe my own by myself. And then I remember that they will soon be 13 and can't curl up on my lap, dirty little sticking out feet and smear peanut butter on the walls and I will miss that, actually. I teach art to 12-13 year old part time right now, I marvel that my little ones will be so beautifully obnoxious some day (as if they aren't already). BTW-being an artist myself, I encounter the BLOCK many a time. My printmaking prof in college way back said to me, "Always keep the engine running, you can just idle, that's okay. Just never turn your engine off."

July 28, 2011 at 10:12 AM | Unregistered Commenterbeth

hey J. your dad rocks!

July 28, 2011 at 12:24 PM | Unregistered Commenteraks

That was truly beautiful, and utterly perfect. You definitely win. =c)

July 28, 2011 at 12:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterB

I very much enjoyed this.

July 28, 2011 at 1:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterAmelia

Happy Birthday, J...you are my first grandchild..my chance for do-overs! From the start you have been very special to me and you continue to hold that place in my heart. With your recent visit, you showed me that our relationship hasn't changed even tho' the miles between has... and the fact that you are now "13" didn't change things either!!. Your dad is so very proud of you, as we all are. But your mark on his life remains a turning point for him that showed him the real meaning of loving something more than your heart thought possible. Another great post, BHJ, showing your love for your kids is without a doubt and always will be.. insurmountable! Love to both of you, always.......

July 28, 2011 at 1:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterMom

My son turns 13 in October and I've been struggling to come to terms with this in my own head. You nailed it. Very well said, sir.

July 28, 2011 at 1:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterMikeD

Thx!

July 28, 2011 at 1:40 PM | Unregistered Commentermichido

Thank you for this. My son turned 13 a couple of months ago and I only wish I could have been so articulate in my words then as you were in your writer's block.

Both my son and his twin sister are marching into adulthood with relentless speed (as I perceive it), but both are holding on to their childhood in the sweetest and most wonderful ways. I get choked up whenever I imagine them no longer being the beautiful children my wife and I have been raising, but I relish the prospect of the adults they will become.

Your words "I love being your dad" are so perfect... The best part of being a parent is the joy you experience in watching your little monkey(s) grow. It's not vanity or vicarious experiences (at least not for me), but simply the giddy delight of seeing a person forming right in front of your eyes.

Made my day - thank you again.

July 28, 2011 at 1:58 PM | Unregistered Commentercavedog

Thank You!

July 28, 2011 at 2:03 PM | Unregistered Commenteri don't matter

Wonderful post, and a nod to John Gruber for the link at daringfireball.com.

My own daughters are now 16 and 12, slipping past us into adulthood just as we did before them. There is so much to enjoy - the sophisticated conversation, the much improved jokes, the achievements, the expansion into "our" world. But there is also that sadness and letting go - it was all over so quickly, I must have forgotten something.

July 28, 2011 at 2:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterBrad

I loved this, thanks.

July 28, 2011 at 2:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterAllan Eakin

hi,

i got here through daring fireball. i don't know who you are. but. but i am also a father and you touched me. our son is eight years old, and we have two daughters - one of six, the other three. i love them and i know we will have to let them go - with love, just like you are doing.

not easy.

July 28, 2011 at 2:33 PM | Unregistered Commentermbotta

You had me at Black Hockey Jesus, but "Fuck you writers block" is just pure gold.

Being a father of a 4yr old son, I really love this post and half fear Fletch's 13th bday. Thanks for the post, really was the best thing I've read today.

July 28, 2011 at 2:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterEric Fickes

I've done thirteen twice now and am about to do it a third time.
The final time. I was pretty sure I wouldn't be the parent that got wrecked by things like this.

What a complete dumbass to be sure of anything.

July 28, 2011 at 3:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterJett

Thank you. Have three little ones, only hope I can given them this kind of present when the time comes.

July 28, 2011 at 3:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterMatthew

I cried. Thank you.

July 28, 2011 at 3:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterSally Carson

My son recently turned 27 and I still love being his dad. Thanks for reminding me. I'm sure that you'll be as lucky.

July 28, 2011 at 3:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterSy Bram

Thanks for the "(or boys)". Parents are sooo cool these days. Well you are. Your son is a lucky kid.

July 28, 2011 at 3:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterJake

what a beautiful and honest piece. you are funny and vulnerable. and i narcissistically love your writing because you remind me of me. (if you even take me seriously enough to come read me i hope you don't barf and slap your head at my ridiculous comparison.)

"fuck you, writer's block" is the funniest fucking thing i've read in ages!

i heart your writing. You are the lucky dad of a very lucky newly 13 year old boy-man.

July 28, 2011 at 4:26 PM | Unregistered Commentertabytha

You made me cry. Thanks.

July 28, 2011 at 4:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterSnorre

Thanks for the "(or boys)" part. But please let your son know that "or boys" is a neutral thing to you, ok?

You may change a life immeasurably and, even in 2011, even save one.

July 28, 2011 at 5:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterGod of Biscuits

You write better with block than I do when I'm on fire.

July 28, 2011 at 5:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterSHG

Truly lovely, made me cry. It was just right.
Xo

July 28, 2011 at 6:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterJulie

Reminds me of a joke I told my son on his 13th birthday (short version):

There are many famous stories in the bible, and one of the most famous is the story of God commanding Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. There are many details in the story, but the age of Isaac is not specified. All that biblical scholars have been able to deduce is that he must have been at least eight or nine years old because he knew what was going on, and he could not have been a teenager, for then it would not have been a sacrifice.

July 28, 2011 at 7:40 PM | Unregistered Commentermartin cohen

perfection. you are some fierce lover.

July 28, 2011 at 8:19 PM | Unregistered Commenterjust me

For... some... reason... tears in my eyes as I read this... in London on my way to work. Looking back at my 13 year old self, looking forward 13 years to my son, who is now a few weeks old. The other commuters seem not to have noticed.

Thank you.

July 29, 2011 at 12:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard

Help! Crying in front of computer in the workplace!

July 29, 2011 at 12:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterDuncan

This is so lovely.

July 29, 2011 at 2:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterSaima

Wow, what a nice piece of writing, I would love to have the half of your avility to write.
And with a 9 years old girl, I'm afraid about what is going to happen in four more years. .

July 29, 2011 at 4:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterGuillermo Garron

Truly moving. Thanks for making my day brighter.

July 29, 2011 at 5:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterSteven

you love in the most beautiful of ways. your kids are so lucky to have you for their dad.

July 29, 2011 at 6:06 AM | Unregistered Commenternic @mybottlesup

I just wanted to let you know that this weblog is being featured on Five Star Friday - http://www.schmutzie.com/fivestarfriday/2011/7/29/five-star-fridays-159th-edition-is-brought-to-you-by-this-hu.html

July 29, 2011 at 10:32 AM | Unregistered Commenterschmutzie

Teary-eyed, in a good way -- thank you for this.

July 29, 2011 at 12:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterCyprienne

Lovely. I say the more we can say to appreciate our kids the better. The more they know how loved they are the better. How else can we send them out into this world that scares me more than teenage-hood.

July 29, 2011 at 1:47 PM | Unregistered Commenterdaniela

Nice. At 50, this is the first time I've read anything that make's me wish we had chosen to have kids...

Okay, that moment has passed. But I'd like to think that had we had one or more, I would have felt exactly the same.

With luck, you'll feel the same in the years to come.

Enjoy your family!

---RASTER

July 29, 2011 at 4:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterRASTERMAN

the best collection of paragraphs i have ever read on what it is like to be a teenage boy, to be the father of a teenage boy....you brought tears of happiness to my eyes. i have no children, and you articulated the sheer joy, and yes, sparkle! of being the father of a teenage boy. i hope in a few years i can read your thoughts on the man he does become, because you must be a great model.

i'm glad your blog was posted over at C&L, or i would never have seen this.

cheers,

---linda

July 30, 2011 at 7:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterLinda

Beautiful!

July 30, 2011 at 7:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterThe Unrepentant Liberal

Describing teenage kissing as wanting to be poetry, pure brilliance!

Your final words to your son on his birthday make me wish I had a child, a lovely piece of writing.

July 30, 2011 at 11:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterKeith

Good God, how I love the way you write.

July 30, 2011 at 5:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterMary

made me teary, having wished my parents had ever expressed as much to me. and knowing my son is going to have the idea of what you have written shared with him. my wife and i were talking today about really never having heard that our parents "loved" us, even as small children. thank you for the eloquence.

and the kissing/listening for footsteps part was a perfect capture of that innocence.

July 30, 2011 at 8:50 PM | Unregistered Commenternightowl

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Post:
 
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>