Smelly Socks: The dawn of the teenager years

By Johanna Bloom
Sept. 26, 2013 at 4:26 a.m.

A major recent occurrence just happened to our family. My oldest son, my outgoing and adventurous Austin, has officially embarked on his teenage years.

I am very aware that life, as we know it, will never be the same. A little innocence was lost on that day in August. There is absolutely no looking back for my teenage son since he has been looking forward to this day since he entered the double digits phase of birthdays. My Austin certainly does enjoy his new status as a teenager and takes every opportunity to comment that he is "officially a teenager."

The teenage gift is a precarious one for all parents. Austin has been very blessed and received a phone for his birthday last year. I honestly believe that singular gift, which was received when he was a mere 12 years old, is partly to blame for the teenage attitude he often exhibits.

Currently, all of Austin's electronic and technological needs are being met, and I say "currently" because that tends to change by the minute. However, there is one birthday gift that makes all boys, and especially all good, Texas ranch boys, weak in the knees, and that is the "coming of age" gun.

Ever since Austin was 8 years old and read the total boy-survival-adventure book, "Hatchet," he has looked forward to getting his hands on his very own gun. Austin has long declared his desire for a certain gun and after many discussions, John and I finally decided that he was of age and could handle this new responsibility.

On his birthday, he carefully removed the camo wrapping paper to reveal the box which held his new gun, along with some ear muffs. Immediately, a smile laced with accomplishment spread across his face. Target practice in the back pasture was declared, and we all headed outside to see Austin destroy some innocent paper targets.

As he was carefully putting his gun away after practice, under his breath I heard him remark, "Mmm, I can taste the deer sausage now." He turned his head to the side and turned bright red as he noticed that was I behind him and overheard his remark. With his new gun, he is on pins and needles, desperately waiting for deer season to open that first weekend in November.

For Austin's now-mature teenage birthday celebration, he settled for a special family dinner in San Antonio and a friend to celebrate with. All of the boys (Austin, Jamison and the designated friend) cleaned up nicely and were very presentable.

We headed to a restaurant that had numerous forks and spoons on the table, various glasses and different courses. The boys all minded their manners impeccably, and everyone seemed to enjoy a welcomed change of atmosphere. The birthday evening ended with chocolate molten lava cake, and everyone was content while on a wild sugar high like no other.

This dear, designated friend also spent the night, as he has many times before, but you could tell that this particular night was going to be different. The tapping of the cellphone buttons and the "brrring, brrring, brrring" of messages hadn't stopped since the minute they got together.

Thankfully, without asking, they turned their iPhones and iPods off during our dinner. However, on the entire trip to San Antonio and back, their fingers were moving nonstop. Their laughs were staccato as they were looking over each other's shoulders reading the various messages from the different girls and friends that were wildly coming in and going out.

I went to bed very late that night while Austin and his friend were still bouncing all over the house. In the morning, as I headed into Austin's room to wake them up for church, all of the lights in his room were still on and their hands were still clutching their iPhones / iPods firmly. I noticed Jamison, who is a very responsible 9 year old, peeking around the corner while I opened the drapes in Austin's room.

I was trying to wake them rather abruptly with sunlight. Jamison looked over to me and solemnly shaking his head said, "Oh man, this is just too sad. Do you think that their hands will stay like that?" I replied "Pitiful, pitiful, pitiful. Unfortunately, yes, their hands will stay in that position for a couple of years."

I smiled at Jamison and stroked his soft, blond hair, cherishing the three-and-a-half years that I have with him until the teen years grab him away, too.

Just then the all too familiar "brrring" rang out as Austin groggily opened up just one eye. He held up his phone and looked at the incoming text and commented, "Hmmm. But it is too early in the morning for this." With that he turned his phone off with his one eye slowing closing.

Austin feels like being 13 years old is a passageway into manhood. I just smile because that boy has a lot to learn. My oldest child is very stubborn and strong-willed. He is the darling child who has to hit his head a dozen times against something before he figures out that it hurts. I can waste my breath teaching and preaching to him the importance of certain things, and it usually falls on deaf ears.

His stubbornness makes things harder than they need to be, but it is also a mixed blessing. Once Austin has figured something out or has his mind set, nothing will ever change it. He has an iron will, and I can only hope it serve him well in the future.

There will be many important milestones in these developmental years necessary in getting them ready to meet the upcoming challenges of high school, college and the real world. As with most things, no amount of talking will prepare someone.

There are some things you just have to experience first. While my children are busy learning things, I am on my knees praying that they will remember what John and I have taught them and handle things in the manner that they should.

Johanna is a proud seventh-generation Texan. She lives on her family's South Texas ranch with her husband and two lively boys. Email Johanna Bloom or Anita Spisak at



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