Yesterday my oldest son turned 15 years old. He and I joked about him having some sort of celebration to mark this huge rite of passage, but instead he opted for a dinner at Red Lobster and an Oreo milkshake from Sheridan's Frozen Custard for dessert. Since his sister was out of town, he was able to talk uninterrupted for hours on end this past week. Granted, I did have to share my time with his phone but he knows by now when to check in and when to check out of the phone. We refer to it as "unplugging" and we use that term often when we are ready for undivided attention.
The night before his birthday I just couldn't sleep. It was as if I was going out of town or awaiting some hot date the next day. I was restless and even a little irritatble, but mostly, I was very excited. I just kept saying, "15, my son is turning 15" in my head and eventually fell asleep. This is a huge milestone because I don't just have an average kid. I have an African American male who has to navigate life with a hypersensitivity that many of his peers do not. His white male peers at his elite private high school really don't ever consider who is watching their every move, who they eat with in the cafeteria and who they hang out with. Instead, they go through life with a sort of ease that I am often envious of.
I was so nervous to find out I was going to have a son and I still have that same nervousness when he goes to the movies with friends. His other African American male friends are just as smart and beautiful as my son. They are also strategic and never walk into a movie with more than three of them in a group. They wait to get inside the theatre before they interact and they even sometimes put a row between them depending on the sitation. No one wants their child to have to think of these things to go to a damn movie, but the truth is, all parents of African American boys should.
I want my son to hold my hand while I leave this planet, I don't want to ever stand over his dead body. I pray for his protection, but I also let go. I don't live in a fear but there is an anxiety. I pray for all his friends too that share the same racial legacy. I want them to just be able to be their goofy selves, their cool selves, their innocent and loving selves. No one should be able to take that from them.
So guess what? My son wears a hoodie every day, owns his 5'11" 135 pound frame, shows off his muscles on the basketball court, in cross country and track, and flexes his intellectual strength in his high honor roll and standardized test scores. He isn't and won't be boxed in. He heeds my words of protection, but he refuses to live in fear. "Mom," he says, "they will do what they will do anyway, so I might as well live the life I want," well hell, and so it is.