My oldest recently had one of the most terrible thirteen-year-old days ever. It was a Saturday and he would have liked to sleep in, but his mother (that would be me) signed him up to be a tour guide at his school’s Open House. But even before he could go and do that, he had a soccer tryout.
His soccer team from last fall had fallen apart and his teammates and coach scattered to other teams. Mourning the loss of his team, he went to a muddy, foggy, early morning tryout with unfamiliar boys and unfamiliar coaches. As he went to put his cleats on, he discovered his feet have grown in the past few months and they didn't fit very well.
Muddy and sweaty, feet cramped, he showed up for the Open House, changed clothes, and gamely toured potential kindergarten families around the school. Afterwards, he changed into his basketball uniform, went to his game, and he and his team promptly lost their eleventh game in a row.
Luckily, that evening we had planned on going to one of our favorite family outings: the crab feed at the Portuguese Hall in Santa Cruz. Driving to Santa Cruz, my oldest son brought his computer with him because he had homework to do. Trying to do homework in the car on a windy road made him a little queasy, so he couldn't get much done.
Arriving at the crab feed, we all sat down at the long tables. Armed with plastic bibs, plastic cups and paper plates, we waited for the enormous stainless steel bowls of steaming crab in tomato garlic sauce to be placed along the table. One of the families we were to eat with was late. Oh well, the crab could not wait. We started without them. My husband, sitting on one side of the table, asked my middle son to pass the bowl of crab to him. It was passed over my oldest, who was sitting directly across from my husband. When my husband went to grab the bowl, he didn’t have both hands securely on it and it tipped over away from him . . . and all over my oldest son.
At least a gallon of hot tomato garlic crab sauce and a couple hunks of crab landed right in his lap. He just sat there, so shocked he couldn’t move. My husband was just as shocked and didn’t move either. Just then, the family we were waiting for walked in, with their beautiful thirteen-year-old daughter. Seeing my son covered in crab, her mouth dropped open. In response he closed his eyes, grimaced, and asked himself "why me?” He was soaked from waist to shoes in crab juice. We didn’t have any clothes with us at all. I got him up and he waddled to the men’s bathroom where I had to just push him inside and tell him to take off his pants. I grabbed my middle son, who had two shirts on and very kindly offered to share one, and shoved him in the boy’s bathroom, instructing him to help with rinsing crab off the pants in the sink. Thank goodness my husband finally flew into action and went into the men’s bathroom too. A few minutes later, my son was set up in the bathroom, with his laptop, but without any pants, socks or shoes. He was just going to have to wait in there until we found him some clothes.
Fortunately we did find some clothes. Unfortunately, the only clothes we could find for him to change into were the basketball shorts that our friends' thirteen-year-old girl had just worn in her basketball game. Did I mention that the beautiful thirteen-year-old is taller than I am? The shorts were ridiculously long and went down to my son’s shins, but at least they were relatively clean.
Gamely, my son did come out of the bathroom and was able to recover and even dance to a few songs when the band started up. That took more strength of character than I had at thirteen years old. (Mom, I’m sure you will agree with me)
Maybe that is the difference between boys and girls. For a boy, it was a horrible day but then it was over. For a girl of the same age, I think a day like this would have been a trauma with far-reaching ramifications and a long recovery period. Think of yourself at thirteen, how would you have reacted?