I should have known better than to let Shane wear a fedora. It was just so damn cute, and he needed a new outfit for the Kinder-Shabbat service that his preschool class was hosting. I bought him a pair of 80s vintage-style glam-rocker trousers, a pinstripe shirt with a dragon print, and a gray and black felt fedora. All he needed was a couple of tattoos and biker wallet chain to complete the look. Yes, I realize that my son just turned four. I am usually not a fan of dressing up little kids in adult clothing ... but I couldn't resist.
When we got to the synagogue, all of his friends crowded around him. His friends, in their Gap T-shirts and jeans, were visibly impressed. When the teachers and the other parents saw him, they couldn't stop talking about how adorable he looked in his fedora.
Ever since Shane started preschool, he has been drawn to the "bad boys," the kids who get to chew gum and watch "Batman" on TV. After Shane has a playdate at one of their houses, he comes home begging for Transformers and orange soda, and throwing around phrases like "stupid fricking idiot" (oh s***, maybe he got that one from me!).
Since I am one of those evil moms who only allows my children to play with wooden toys that were not made in China, who limits TV viewing to commercial-free "Dora the Explorer" and "Little Bear," and who never keeps soda in the house, these kids with all of their freedoms and privileges are super-exciting to Shane and he emulates them.
But that fedora gave him power. When he showed up at the service that night looking hotter than the lead singer from Maroon 5, he commanded the room. He became rebellious, edgy, and suddenly didn't need me anymore. When it was time for us to sit down for the service, he said, "Mommy, I want to sit in the back with Dante. You go sit up front." I was speechless.
During the service, he pouted with his arms folded, way too cool to sing "Bim-Bom." His big brown eyes peeked out from under his fedora as he scanned the room for his friends. The rabbi called up his class to the bima ... it was time for the children to sing their special song!
Shane immediately lined up next to his posse. The crew of boys clung together like they were having a gangsta' meeting, and Shane was the leader of the pack in his fedora. As the children began performing their song and dance routine to "One Little Shabbat Candle," Shane's friends starting hitting themselves and laughing hysterically. Shane upped the ante and smacked his tushie. Then the boys began to blow raspberries and pick their noses. As Shane's tongue inched out of his mouth, I caught his eye and gave him my most menacing look. "Stop it NOW," I whispered, with as much intensity as I could muster.
A mom behind me tapped me on the shoulder and said, "I can't get over Shane in that fedora! It is too much. You better watch out for him when he's older!"
I looked at my son, who was just a nursing baby a moment ago, and could clearly see him as a teenager. I imagined him in the popular crowd for all the wrong reasons. The class-clown who was always getting busted. The kid who ditches class to go skateboarding. The boy who gets suspended for smoking in the bathroom. The guy who ends up in rehab or worse yet, jail. God help me.
I looked around at the other kids, obediently clapping their hands and turning in circles to the music. They looked like cherubic wind-up dolls next to the bad-ass mother-f***ers off to the side. I had never seen my child in this light before. How did this happen overnight?
Reality check: I am the one who thought it would be cute to dress up my kid like Scott Weiland from Stone Temple Pilots for a Tot-Shabbat service. I was getting what I deserved.
After the service, I carried my son to the car, his arms wrapped tightly around me and his head resting on my shoulder. I woke up the next morning with his blond curls pressed up against my face. "Mommy," Shane asked as we were riding our bikes to the park later that day, "Where am I going to sleep when I am twenty?"
"I would imagine in your own bed in your own house," I told him, smiling at his question.
"No!" he said, clearly upset. "I want to live in the same house with you and Daddy forever!"
"You promise?" I asked him as he sped off in front of me on his tricycle.
|Jennifer Ginsberg is a Los Angeles writer and mother to three, surprisingly angst-free children. As a former actress/waitress, turned clinical social worker specializing in addiction, turned full-time mother/part-time psychotherapist/writer, Jennifer is particularly well-versed on the topic of angst.|
Find out more about her life at angstmom.com