Sunday, June 25, 2017

Boy, bye

My son is 17, and he is doing exactly what he should be doing: Coming home only when circumstances require it. When he clomps through the door in his giant shoes, it’s typically because he needs to sleep here so he can get to work at 6 a.m. Or it might be time to mow the lawn so he can get his allowance and avoid his father’s wrath. Or maybe he is out of clean clothes.

But if none of those things are true, he’s gone. He has a car, a job, and a bunch of friends he’s always staying with in a dizzying rotation (gratitude to the families who are feeding my teenager this summer). I am philosophically inclined to allow him a lot of autonomy because I think parents are supposed to prepare their kids to be autonomous, and turning them loose a bit is the only way to really do it. He’s got good grades and a clean driving record, he pays for his own gas, his friends are nice fellows. I have no real reason to limit him, and every reason to feel good about the young man he has become. It’s all as it should be.

Also, this is worst thing ever and I'm slowly dying. I hate it. No one told me how very much I would hate it. You guys, why didn't anyone WARN ME?

When he briefly materializes, our conversations go like this:

“Hey Jack, did you have fun at Connor’s? What did you guys do?”

“It was great. We helped his grandmother move into her new house, and then we drove around in Calder’s Jeep. It’s really fun because it’s open on the sides.”

“That’s so nice that you helped with the move. I’m sure she appreciated having all you boys there. Where did you guys go in the Jeep?”

“We went up Signal Mountain, just drove around, it was fun. Hey, I’m going to stay with Jesse tonight, I just need to get my laptop and some cables to hook up to his keyboard.”

“Sounds good. Have you had dinner?”

“Yes, I’ll be back tomorrow to cut the grass.”

“OK, honey, I love you.”

Fine, right? FINE. Totally normal progression from childhood to adulthood. But this is the conversation in my head:

“Hey Jack, did you have fun at Connor’s? What did you guys do?”

“It was great. We helped his grandmother move into her new house, and then we drove around in Calder’s Jeep. It’s really fun because it’s open on the sides.”

“JEEPS ROLL OVER JEEPS ARE DANGEROUS YOU WILL FALL OUT AND DIE DID YOU WEAR A SEATBELT? I DON’T CARE IF YOU WORE A SEATBELT NEVER RIDE IN A JEEP WHO IN THE WORLD GIVES THEIR TEENAGE SON A JEEP?”

“We went up Signal Mountain, just drove around, it was fun. Hey, I’m going to stay with Jesse tonight, I just need to get my laptop and some cables to hook up to his keyboard.”

“FINE LEAVE GO I DON’T CARE IT’S NOT LIKE YOU EVEN LIVE HERE GAH.”

“Yes, I’ll be back tomorrow to cut the grass.”

“YEAH, YOU BETTER DAMN WELL CUT THE GRASS. I love you.”

Meanwhile, Jack has a 12-year-old brother at home, Ben, who alternately misses his brother terribly and is living it up as the only child for the first time. He and his father recently picked me up at the airport, and he reported that he had not seen Jack in days.

“I miss him,” Ben said. “But also it’s just been Daddy and me all weekend and it was awesome.”

Yesterday, my mother called and asked what I was up to. The answer was not much. It was Pay the Stupid Damn Bills Day, so I had been paying the stupid damn bills, catching up on laundry, and living it up like the rock star I am. I told her about all the fun she was missing and she said, “Well, maybe I’ll just come over and say hello and catch a glimpse of you.”

And I realized: Holy shit, I am never ever EVER going to stop being sad that my kid is growing up. I am 45 years old, and I am not in a good mood on Pay the Stupid Damn Bills Day, and I have nothing to offer in the way of entertainment or charming banter, and my mother wants to just come sit here where I am for a while. Just because this is where I am.

I would totally do that to Jack. If I knew where the hell he is, I would go just sit where he is just to catch a glimpse of him. I would go there and maybe I would even bring him something good to eat or see if he needs some money or help with anything.

Unless he’s in a Jeep. If he's in a Jeep, I'll just wait for him to get back.

See how autonomous I'm letting him be?
I'm a very rational parent.


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