Once upon a time, my oldest son used to come home from school and ask, “So what did my fans have to say about me today?”
This was in response to comments posted on my Kveller pieces about him, including how he travelled by himself on public transportation (then, later, also took his younger brother), how he did plenty of chores but didn’t get paid for them, and, most (un)popularly, how I refused to let him be labeled Special Needs in school. That post generated so much outrage that he even wrote a personal response to it.
But that was almost five years ago. Then, he was 13. Now, he is 18, and doing a year abroad before starting college. He has asked me not to write about him anymore, and I am going to respect his wishes.
My parents don’t mind me writing about them. “Anything for your career, dear!”
My husband doesn’t mind me writing about him. “They pay you, right?”
Others (save public figures), I specifically ask for their permission first.
I never asked my children for their permission. My 10-year-old daughter loves the attention (especially when mothers of her friends see her picture and compliment her). My younger son, now 14, tells me I twist whatever he says anyway, so, sure, go ahead, write whatever you want. It’s all Fake News, anyway.
My oldest didn’t used to mind. But now he minds. He’s an adult, and he wants his private business kept private. So, that’s it, no more stories about my oldest. (Sorry, fans!)
But one concession I did get out of him is that while I will no longer write about him, I am allowed to write about my feelings about him. Like my post about my fears that he’ll face college anti-Semitism, like I did some 30 years ago.
So here are my current feelings about him: I miss him.
I miss him much more than I expected to. And he hasn’t even been gone that long!
As of now, he’s hardly been gone longer than he was two summers ago, when he was a Bronfman Youth Fellow in Israel. But it feels different somehow. Maybe because, then, he was still a kid, still my kid, and now he’s an adult, making his way in the world.
I am also coming to realize that my husband and I took for granted just how much work he did around the house, and how much we counted on him to pick up the slack with our other two. He washed the dishes every night after dinner (something his younger brother still needs to be constantly reminded to do), he could be counted on to pick up his sister from school if no one else was available. He had every subway route in the city memorized. I used him as my own personal Google Maps, because his directions were often clearer. And Halloween and Purim costumes! This year, his siblings are stymied. They have ideas, but no one to execute them!
“You’re talking about him like he’s dead,” my daughter observed the other day. “He’s not dead.”
He is absolutely not dead (spit three times over shoulder). But maybe, the reason I am missing him so much is because the little boy he used to be—the one that I used to write about—is gone. Looking over past Kveller articles, I am reminded of moments I’d forgotten. It’s nice to have those reminders (and photos). And sad to think that part of his life—and mine–is over.
So while I may no longer be writing about what’s up with him, do save some room for me to warble a few bars of “Sunrise, Sunset.”
I think I’m going to need it.