My brother called Sunday afternoon, and after speaking with him for about half an hour I gave him the opportunity to talk with his nephew.
It was a pretty short chat, as Zach wanted to thank him for the Russell Wilson jersey he received in the mail the day before. Besides, the neighbor kids were over, and they were actually all outside playing catch as opposed to sitting in front of a screen watching mildly inappropriate YouTube videos.
When the conversation was over, I got the phone back. "Wow!" Ian said. "I can't believe how much his voice has changed!"
This is, of course, something Bec, Grace and myself have noticed happening over the last several weeks. It's almost as if COVID-19 has, somehow, resulted in an acceleration of normal male adolescence.
Then again, on Monday, the Z-Man did turn 13.
As parents often say: "How did that happen?"
A couple of days ago, I was looking at Facebook Memories, and up came a photo of Zach and Grace from 10 years ago standing in front of former Globe employee Julie Obermoller's Volkswagen Beetle. She had been kind enough to let us take it for a spin, since my nearly-3-year-old son was obsessed with "Herbie Cars" at the time. This was during an era when we likely watched "Herbie Fully Loaded" with Lindsay Lohan on at least a daily basis, and a couple of viewings of the 1977 film "Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo" led to Z's odd-but-charming fascination with Don Knotts.
Looking at that shot from 2010, it's pretty easy to remember Zach being that small. Then again, that may be in part because he likes to check out old Facebook images about as much as I do. Between old videos of him ripping up small pieces of toilet paper (and putting them in his mouth), to his excited reaction to us telling him of our-then-upcoming trip to Disneyland in 2012, to him photo-bombing Grace's vocal performance by shaking his diaper-clad bottom, watching those classic clips make it seem as if those "youngster years" were yesterday.
And they were, I suppose. But now, looking back at his hilarity from early childhood, I wish I'd somehow recorded much more from recent times. It seems like almost every day, Zach says something that makes his mom and me laugh and shake our heads., but as he's gotten older — like most kids — he's become much more reluctant to have me share his silly pictures (which now mostly come about as a result of Snapchat filters) or memorable quotations via social media.
Perhaps I should get an old-fashioned diary and start writing his often-sarcastic witticisms down? Or, begin taking photos anyway and, instead of posting them, getting prints made? This is, after all, a kid who's gotten to the age where lots of things that I do in public seem to embarrass him. (Of course, I do take an occasional pride in doing this on purpose, especially when at the grocery store.) Strangely, as often as he's told me I've embarrassed him, he's the one who will occasionally yell nonsense like "Ree!" "Guu"" and "Yeet" (all from various YouTubers, I've been told) in public for no apparent reason.
The bottom line, though, regardless of behavior, is this: Bec and I now have two teenagers in the house. I take solace in the fact that many, many adult parents I know have already emerged from this period of their lives unscathed. However, when my brother told me Sunday on the phone, "Good luck," I also am well aware that a little bit of fortune may indeed be necessary.
With Grace entering her sophomore year of high school, who knows what excitement — never mind getting a driver's license — awaits the parental units this year? Perhaps Zach will use his sense of humor to ease the tension, or maybe he'll have his own teenage angst he (and, by extension, his mom and dad) will have to cope with. The mysteries of the tumultuous teens remain to be revealed and (hopefully!) solved.
Whatever the future holds, I can say with certainty I'm proud of the kids (er, young man and young woman) Grace and Zach are continuing to become. Here's to a few more years of, yes, more public embarrassment and a good helping of dad jokes. G and Z, I know you wouldn't have it any other way.