Let the record show I am now officially a grown-up

1 Dec

As most of you know, I participate in the Big Brother/Little Brother program. My Little, named Brandon (but referred to only as Baldy by his family, a name that still embarrasses me to this day to use) is a great kid. He’s been dealt a shitty hand, but he pays it no mind. I’ll spare you the many examples and relate only the most recent: his family just got evicted from their North Minneapolis home and he’s been living with his uncle in Bloomington, getting to school every day via city bus. He even has a transfer.

Still, he never complains and maintains decent grades – the kid’s even taking ninth grade math. Kind of incredible, if you think about it.

Little B is turning 14 next month and straddling the line between kid and adult. His home situation has made him mature quicker than most, but he’s tiny (4’10”) with a prepubescent voice and childish behavior.

He’s trying to be an adult, but it just doesn’t take. One minute he’s bragging about how great he is with the ladies, the next he’s hiding from me in a Macy’s clothes rack. One minute he’s asking for the keys so he can try to learn to drive, the next he’s giggling because he accidentally farted in front of the waitress.

Anyway, I digress. Point is: he’s a kid, and a great one at that.

Two Saturdays ago, we’re driving home from the Timberwolves game and I ask him what he wants for his birthday. He asks for a budget, I offer $30, and he suggests I just give him the cash. I tell him he’s crazy, like I do with most everything this little punk says, and he laughs and sits quietly for a second.

“I was writing a note to this girl in class,” he says, telling me the girl’s ridiculously exotic name I of course do not remember. “Her birthday is comin’ up, so I asked her what she wanted. This girl gon’ go ahead and tell me iPod. iPod! You know? How’m I just gonna find the money to buy an iPod for this girl?”

“Yeah. That’s ridiculous.”

Little B. sits for a moment. He’s rarely silent, but he is here, for just a few seconds. “Yo, but then she asked what I wanted from her.” Baldy’s birthday is coming up soon as well. “And I was like, what can I ask for? Guess what she wrote back.”

I am nervous. Very nervous. Do I know where this is heading? Nah. Not possible. “Um. I don’t know. Do I want to know?”

A few tics of silence, and then, “She said: anything.”

“What do you mean?” I ask. After about three seconds of silence, I know exactly what he’s talking about. I know what “anything” means to teenagers, and I know what teenage boys ask for when “anything” is on the table. So now my little bro is hoping to talk to me about it — even though we’ve never talked about anything nearing this topic – and he’s looking to have a serious talk, which makes me briefly consider steering my car into oncoming traffic to avoid the ensuing conversation. Unfortunately, there’s a highway barrier. Fuck fuck fuck.

“I mean, ANYTHING. Swear! Know what I’m saying?” He ends this question with a nervous laugh, a couple “ohh”s and a few punches into his palm.

It was here that I began talking. I talked. We talked.

God help me…we had “The Talk.”

We did. I can’t believe it. I was not prepared for this.

I’ll never forget the fact that we had this conversation, and never forget the situation, but I’ve already forgotten what I actually said. I know that it involved a bit of empathy (“hey man, I get it, I was once your age too”), a dash of look-at-the-big-picturing (“Just remember all the things you want to do; and remember what doing that might result in”), a dollop of pleading (“please, please, promise me you won’t do this for a while or at least be careful or no I mean most importantly don’t do it but do you know what I’m trying to say here?”) and a heaping helping of the fear of God (“You get a girl pregnant before you graduate high school, and I am going to fucking murder you. No joke. You hear me?”) to make my point.

It was ugly. He sat there, quiet for the most part save for the one time he admitted he knew what a condom was and basically knew how to use it, while I stammered and pounded the steering wheel and turned the radio down and then up and tried to make a joke here and there and laughed to myself and then stopped and basically just waffled between relaxation and pants-shitting fear and some yelling but mostly just confusing blather. Awful. I made my point eventually, but getting there was the worst thing ever. The worst. God, I’m getting nervous again just writing about it.

So! That was my Saturday. Talking about the birds and the bees with my little bro. No big thing. It’s not. Really, it isn’t. Conversation over. Whatevs. Let’s just move on, OK? Let’s talk about you. What is up? What’s going on in your life? Hey come on, stop staring at me. Look away. New subject. I don’t want to talk about it anymore. I don’t. It sucked. The end. It was awkward and it sucked and that’s it. No more questions. Seriously. Leave me alone. It’s not funny.

Now would you all please excuse me while I drink this perma-blush off my face.

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10 Responses to “Let the record show I am now officially a grown-up”

  1. Jon December 1, 2008 at 9:49 pm #

    I think I’m blushing, and I was in no way involved.

    I’m not sure what this post most makes me want to avoid:
    1) Participating in a similar mentoring program.
    2) Having kids.
    3) Ever meeting any kids again.

  2. RandBall's Stu December 2, 2008 at 7:23 am #

    Ill-prepared, stammering attempts at caution, improvisation, overwhelming self-doubt.

    There could not possibly be a better “Parenting 101” course. You performed admirably, and you seem to grasp that it may not do a damn bit of good. My advice to you is to start drinking heavily.

  3. ms. mpls December 2, 2008 at 8:40 am #

    lady perspective here. you did the right thing. even if it was awkward, even if all the info didn’t take. it’s way better to make a honest, feeble, stumbling attempt than to have done nothing at all.

  4. roughkat December 2, 2008 at 10:11 am #

    I’m only about 3 months into being a Big Brother and I’m definitely a little nervous of this topic coming up someday. I have a hard enough time just trying to talk to him about making sure he does well in school. Sounds like you did a pretty good job of it though.

  5. A.B. December 2, 2008 at 2:35 pm #

    This is great preparation for when you are driving and the ten year-old in the backseat asks, “Hey, what’s an abortion anyway?”

    So. Fun.

  6. Steph December 2, 2008 at 5:37 pm #

    Spose I am due for my first comment :) I have had similar situations in the elementary school – little Bruce who insisted his “angry” stuffed animal needed a paternity test to make him happy again. As long as you didn’t drop your jaw and say “where did you hear that!?!?” You definitely handled the situation better than I did.

  7. Cool Rut December 3, 2008 at 8:19 am #

    You think the Wolves play Jefferson out of position too often?

  8. Dave MN December 4, 2008 at 7:53 am #

    Sounds basically how I would probably end up doing it. I enjoyed the thought of driving into oncoming traffic as an option.

  9. lattewarrior December 5, 2008 at 1:42 pm #

    I had this talk with my niece earlier this decade when she was about 15. I remember we were sitting in the theater waiting for the movie “In America” [very good, by the way] when she started talking about this joker [not *the* Joker of RandBall infamy, in case the authorities are building a case against him] in her class who was obviously trying to get in her pants. She said she liked him but didn’t know if she was ready for things to get physical. I told her that whenever a private area touches another private area for the first time there’s better than 50 percent chance that the two areas will have an unfortunate reaction that will make the areas feel like they are on fire. And if that were to happen, her mother would have to take her to the doctor to get the proper antibiotics. Years later she told me that my story kept her from having sex for the next year. The lesson: When in doubt, lie.

  10. Keith December 10, 2008 at 2:54 pm #

    B, great writing! This was pass the link on worthy. I am going to save any questions or conversations for the dinner table in a few weeks. It should spice up whatever food we are having. You don’t strike me as having any trouble talking about this subject so it should be fun.

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