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almost 18, and still taking baby steps

February 21st, 2012 | 3 Comments »

This boy of mine, a man-child with the deep voice and winsome smile, self-sufficient and capable who is learning to drive and manage a bank account and negotiate girls and friendships….. so much that’s happening with him on every passing day but he can’t seem to manage taking a shower without a few heavy knocks on the door.

And on occasion, shutting off the hot water and giving him ‘The Big Chill’.

As battles go, I know this one is pretty low on the priority scale. When we say ‘Be home by midnight’ he’s usually walking in the door around 11:30. When he has a sleepover with his friends, the worst thing they do is consume too much junk food and pop.
He makes his own breakfast and lunch. When we ask for him to manage dinner, he makes us a feast. If I leave him a task list before I go to work, it’s complete by the time I come home. He still likes to hang out with us, watching a movie or TV show. He washes his own clothes without our prompting, he willingly goes to church, he loves to read and he enjoys good friendships with his band of brothers from his Youth Group, and with his cousins.

But, he still needs ‘The Big Chill’.

He’s not sneaking out of the house after we’re asleep, to meet friends who encourage illicit activities. He’s not coming home from hanging out with his pals sporting telltale signs of substance abuse or alcohol consumption. He’s not stealthily smoking cigarettes, chasing after all kinds of girls, committing vandalism, TP-ing houses, terrorizing neighbors. We trust his friends, and that goes far. If the worst offense he encounters away from the protection of our wings is a trip to Chipotle after his rec league basketball game, then I consider us pretty darn lucky.

Then come those morning, and we have to flip that knob that cuts the flow of hot water, because the knock at the door and the responding ‘Ok.’ haven’t made a bit of difference.

He turns 18 in April, and yet, in no way in this man-child an adult. Maybe in some ancient time, when life was far different and everyone needed to be so much more self-sufficient, and when the life expectancy was more like 30, when we didn’t have the ability to thrive in to our 80’s or higher, when the dangers of life could take their toll far quicker and more exacting, maybe then 18 was adulthood, worthy of responsibility, of letting go and watching them spread their own wings to fly. Used to be that a girl of 18 who was unmarried was considered too old. A time existed that man of 18 had all the markings of adulthood;  a wife, a homestead and his own team of horses. But this isn’t the case now.

And that’s all right with me. I wasn’t ready to fly by myself either at that age. And although he moves closer to finding his own freedom every day, and we plot to move him in the right direction, he still has moments where he sits down by me, just wanting my proximity. He still loves it when I grab him in a huge hug, and hold on tight. He can figure out his future, take stock of what he wants from it and try to make it all work out and I can sit back and enjoy the process of seeing him test those wings, listening and supporting his ideas. I find a few things to tease him about, but it’s a huge stretch to do so, because this boy of mine, for all those moments of forgetfulness, when he doesn’t recall the task list I left or simply decides he doesn’t want to do what we ask, well those are few and far between. And as parenting a teenager goes, it’s an awfully good thing going on here, worthy of the pride it evokes.

If my only vice with him is that he is soothed by a long, hot shower in the morning, then I’ve got little to complain about.

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rite of passage

November 8th, 2011 | 2 Comments »

This boy…….

….is now this boy……

and everything about that is OK with me. I’ve waxed philosophic about his transformation in these pages here, times I look at him marching down his appointed road in life and I am warmed with the love and grace he carries, and the leaps and bounds he’s taken in life. He’s a good kid; he’s loved and treasured by his friends, adored by his family and solid in every way. He’s polite and courteous and kind and giving, he has an amazing laugh, he’s smart and funny and is learning to be such a good cook. He can take care of his laundry, do the cleaning, wash dishes and run a vacuum. He helps when he’s asked.

He still likes to sit next to me sometimes, with his head on my shoulder.

I get tears in my eyes when he snuggles our snuggly cat.

I love watching him and his Dad, their heads bent over a project, conversing about ‘guy’ things, both learning from the other.

I still wish sometimes I could reach under his blanket in the morning and feel his warm feet, as I loved doing that when he was a baby. Sometimes I still do, and he just smirks at me. Because he knows. Then he kicks my hand away.

I still marvel sometimes at the hair on his face, the depth of his voice, the growing up he’s done.

And I wrote a check out, placed it in an envelope and sent it in to confirm him for Drivers Ed. He sat through his classroom training, he saw videos of car crashes, he visited a salvage yard to look at the results of careless and inattentive drivers and when I asked him about it, his face went white a little, his voice dropped and he looked like he may cry. And that pleased me, in a parent sort of way.

Here is the scariest thing I’ve ever needed to do as a parent. It’s not the fear of holding down a screaming toddler when the nurse plunges a needle in to their leg; it’s not the scary first day of a new school, or the unknown of the first dentist visit, or telling your boy he needs to have teeth yanked from his mouth. It isn’t the plunging pain of watching doctors probe his swollen belly, while he screams in agony. It’s not the pain of holding them tight through Chicken Pox, strep throat or in the morning following a night of stomach flu. This isn’t like watching them closely in the ER, while a kind doctor slips thread on a needle and sews shut a fleshy gash in their skin.

No, this is giving them permission to operate a deadly weapon. This is giving them the go-ahead to get behind the wheel of a car, and know that they need to learn well, right now, this very moment. This is knowing that the next six months, after the permit is issued, that every time we go somewhere, it would be best to give him the keys, to sit tight and remind him, over and over again, of what he was taught. It’s knowing that when it snows, he’ll need to learn how to navigate that too, all while operating a deadly weapon. This isn’t a car; not in the hands of a 17 year old who thinks they know everything.

This car, this is a deadly weapon. He could kill someone with it. He could kill himself. He could kill us. If he doesn’t do it right, learn it right, be cautious about it, understand what he’s doing and learn the best methods, he could kill someone. And if this isn’t learned correctly, this will be a truth, possibly, that he’d need to live with the rest of his life.

This I repeat to him over, and over and over and over.

“You are not learning to drive a car.” I explain. “You are operating a deadly weapon.”

Today, my one and only child takes his permit test.

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