From the Editor


My fuzzy firstborn

By Susy Schultz

My dear first-born boy has always been a bit fuzzy. Fuzzy and sleepy.

Born five weeks premature, his face and body were covered with soft hair called lanugo-common for preemies.

The doctors were a bit fuzzy on just why I went into labor six and a half weeks early.

And while some things are understood-good health, nutrition, and prenatal care help lower the risk of a premature baby-the truth is, much about birth is still a mystery. They don't know why some babies come early. The best explanation I ever received was from the woman who cleaned my hospital room. She said simply, "He was fully cooked."

I am sure my boy just needed more space to stretch out and sleep. At birth, he was nearly 7 pounds. Since his first days, he eschewed the bunting and went for splayed hands and feet.

The doctors told us premature babies-if they are healthy-have one advantage: They sleep.

This little fuzzy guy slept in five to six hour stretches. And it was hard to wake him, unless he was hungry.

But the doctors told us, at 5 weeks, our boy would become a normal newborn. He would wake and cry just like every other baby. The inevitable is only postponed, not escaped, they said.

Not my boy. He held on-sleeping at night and napping during the day. He was amazing. "It's like you've given birth to a teenager," my sister said.

I laughed. Little did I realize. We do give birth to teenagers. Because even the cutest of babies turn-eventually.

My baby turned 14 just a few months ago.

Logically, since I play the role of the adult, I know his 5-foot, 10-inch body is in hormonal turmoil. I know his brain and body are growing and it is an amazing and challenging time. But my dear, little baby boy is back to sleepy and fuzzy.

It's not just the fuzz on his face, his precursor to stubble, it's also his logic.

Yes, I love him. He is the brightest, most handsome, and wonderful person in the world-tied with his younger brother for first place in my heart.

But I know him. His great mind can zero in on anything he cares about. If he doesn't care? Fuzzy.

As in: "You told me to leave a phone number. You never said anything about being able to read it. Jeez, Mom."

And fuzz boy is still a sleeping champ. Stretched out, covering his whole futon, he just loves to sleep.

This summer, he enrolled in summer school.

My son thinks, "Hey, it's summer school, I'll get there. No biggie." The high school believes this is a real class for real credit-a perception problem.

Within the first week, my boy was late three times. He says it's a time-management test. He thinks eventually he will be able to shower, eat, dress, brush teeth, gel hair and get to school in 20 minutes. It's a goal and "You always say goals are good, Mom."

I decide to avoid mentioning this lofty goal when I go to see his teacher, a lovely young woman who looks at me sternly and says: "You know, it is vital for his education to be in class on time."

I shake my head thoughtfully. I say nothing. But inside I am screaming: "Do I look like an idiot? Don't you think I know that? Do you think I just sit at home and tell him, ‘Son, forget your future. Blow off class. Have a beer?'"

I continue the head shake as she continues, I wonder: "Have you ever even tried to wake a 14-year-old boy? Do you have any idea?"

Waking a teenager is an art. I have the process down to 35 minutes, but it involves dogs, water and loud talking-not to be confused with screaming.

He needs to be up by 6:30 a.m. So, I start early.

At 6 a.m., I take two minutes to adore him. They are amazing when they sleep, aren't they? I shake him gently and call his name. Why? I don't know. I still dream big.

I hear a voice: "You know, it is vital for his education..." I step things up. I pry open his eyelids. "Are you in there?" He can sleep while staring. Impressive.

"Ten minutes, Mom." "OK, just sit up. Open your eyes. How many fingers am I holding up?"

He has the count right. "All right, I'll be back."

When I return, I have assistants. "Go on. Lick his face," I tell the two dogs. My son's eyes never open. "Right this instant, young man," I yell. "Do you hear me? RIGHT NOW!" He turns over.

I sit on him. Desperate times. He growls, pushes me off and turns back towards the wall.

I am alone. The dogs are gone. My husband and younger son are awake but no one will help.

"You have to get up. You cannot be late."

I flick small drops of water on his face. He flinches and pulls the covers up. I pull the covers off. "Just 10 more minutes, Mom. Please." I drag the dogs back. I plop one on the bed. As it walks-and I swear, I did not coach the dog-it steps in a strategically crucial place on any boy. "MY GOD, MOM. WHAT are you doing? Do you know how much that hurts?"

"If you do not get up, I swear, young man, I will write about this." He looks at me. I pulled out a last resort trump card. (OK, maybe not so last resort.)

His eyes are open. "Is that all I am to you-something to write about?

"How do you think that affects me in these formative years? Jeez, Mom. I don't know what to think."

He walks to the shower. And I think, that was really incisive. Maybe he's growing out of fuzzy.

I just can't wait until we leave sleepy.


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