816 North Opinion

Susan Vollenweider: Even in their teen years, sons can make moms feel needed

“Mom? Mom?” I heard my name in increasingly loud whispers as a dream ended and the middle of the night reality was made obvious. “Mom? It’s me, Luke.”

Introducing himself? Clearly sleepwalking. If I pretended to be asleep maybe he would drift back to his own bed. No such luck: He shook my shoulder trying to get me to open my eyes, an act that I would need a solid reason to perform.

“I’m sick.”

Eyes open.

“I think I have an ear infection.”

Although my kids are all old enough to self-diagnose, whispering “I’m sick” gets my eyes open fast. It’s probably a learned reflex from the days when “sick” was a general term that could lead to a whole range of nocturnal activity. A quick-fix headache or a longer commitment like changing sheets and pajamas, getting out the Lysol, fetching a whoopee bucket and doing middle-of-the-night laundry?

Luke has been waking me with ear infections since 1998. He was one of those kids who had them so often his hearing was impaired and his speech delayed. He got his first set of ear tubes at age 2, his second a few years later, and a third at 10.

“He’ll hit puberty and outgrow it,” our doc said.

Not exactly. We did have a nice infection-free run with the tubes but once they fell out (they fall out and little boys think they are really cool and want to save them in little specimen jars which — if I’m being honest — is sorta cool in a kinda gross way). Bottom line: 16 year-old Luke still gets ear infections. There is a school of thought that says not to medicate and let them run their course.

I don’t go to that school. Luke was in the doctor’s office the next morning. His stage of life, man-sized but not legal, requires a conversation:

“Do you want me to go in with you?”


“I don’t have to, but I can, you know, if you want.”

Silence with a shrug chaser.

I always stand up and follow when his name is called. I figure at some point someone is going to say, “Mom, you can stay in the waiting area.”

But that wasn’t the day.

When Luke was younger he was very energetic, even when he was Go-to-the-Doctor sick. Containing him in a small waiting room took the entertainment prowess of a team of Disney animators with a few street performers thrown in for good measure.

I had a repertoire: Simon Says, Happy and You Know It, Wheels on the Bus followed by a mom-exhausting game of Follow Luke and Close Drawers and Cabinets. Then we played on the spinning stool. If we were still waiting (and not puking from the spinning) it was time for a round of Magazine Eye Spy.

But Luke doesn’t need me to entertain him these days.

He has a phone.

And a girlfriend at the other end of it who was, coincidentally, at lunch while Luke was waiting for a doctor to tell us what we already knew but lacked the credentials to dispense the proper medication.

No spinning stool, no rounds of Simon Says, just Luke on his phone and me on mine; together but apart.

It was a horrible way to spend rare confined and alone time with my teenage son. I knew that when it was happening but didn’t know what to do about it ...

... until I took a picture and shared with him stories about an active little boy who grew to still make his mom feel needed in the middle of the night.

Susan Vollenweider lives in Smithville. For more of her writing, go to thehistorychicks.com.