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This Shit Slaps

‘This shit slaps.’


I knew by looking at my ebullient 21-year-old son’s face that this was a good thing. Whatever the ‘shit’ was, it ‘slapped.’ He had long been surprising me with new combinations of words that historically hadn’t gone together. Was this a young man’s way to make the tsunami of approaching adulthood a little more manageable? By defining it with his terms - each new phrase like a battle flag staked on the crest of the latest uphill climb of adulting. Was it a way to put space between us, a process called differentiation? I admit, moms can be a bit intrusive. Perhaps. But today, the slapping shit made me smile. It seemed to be about the guacamole I had just opened and placed between us.


It wasn’t long ago when I asked how he was doing, my son would respond with an exasperated ‘UUGGHH.’ That exchange slowly progressed to this:


‘What are you thinking about?’


‘Stuff,’


‘What kind of stuff?’


‘Things’


As frustrating as this was for me, I can now see it was his gentle yet unyielding way of drawing a boundary with his mom so he could sort out his own life. As he did so, his language became more lush and expansive less narrow and limited as though he passed through a second birth canal from childhood to adulthood being emotionally and energetically constricted in his teens as he had been physically constricted on his birth journey.


Once he emerged, his language flowered. Gone were the monosyllabic grunts. He discovered his own vernacular, informed by his peers, his older siblings, and the abundance of social media he was exposed to. One that was all his own. His word choices were simultaneously amusing, endearing, and confusing. Over time, his expressions became more creative, his opinions more diverse, more separate from mine. He was my fourth and final child, so this phase was expected and less terrifying than the first, second, and third time. He articulated his thoughts using eloquent terms. He took space amongst his older siblings at the dinner table to express difficult, contrary beliefs. But recently, in what seemed like regression, he would summarize his entire point - hinged all of what he hoped to communicate - in one singular, declarative word.


Mood.


The clues to its meaning baffled me. He used it when happy, when upset, in social media posts. For the significant. For the mundane. It was an all-purpose enigmatic utterance.


He and I worked together at a local music venue. One day, pre-pandemic, the staff gathered around the bar to discuss the details of the shift and an apparent food order shortage. My son uttered his one-word pronouncement and all our young co-workers nodded in knowing agreement. I screwed up my courage to ask the group what ‘Mood’ meant. To a person, this struck them as comical. They used memes to explain. I deciphered that the definition of ‘Mood’ was as variable as the strong emotion, both positive and negative, portrayed in the pictures they showed me on their phones. I came to understand that ‘Mood’ was shorthand for “This is me right now.”


More importantly, in that moment I watched my son interact confidently with his peers. He was competent in his first job, established in his own personal style, and played music in a rock and roll band. He was an adult and a pretty cool one. I was proud of him. I felt a settled sense of completion. My children were all grown. I was done.


You might even say it was a whole mood.


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