My oldest turns 16 today.
My husband and I do not share their report cards, or their baseball stats, or their school awards on social media. Our lack of sharing is not from a lack of pride in their accomplishments but rather instilling in our children a desire to work hard to reach their goals for their own personal fulfillment, not the momentary validation provided by a computer screen.
But every so often, it is nice to be recognized. And although he would never expect it, on his 16th birthday, he deserves to be recognized.
He makes parenting look easy. He makes my husband and I look like parenting rock stars. If you are looking for parenting advice on how to raise a great kid, I am not sure we have much to offer. We have legitimately been winging it since the day he came home from the hospital. While I hope we have more than contributed to help mold him, honestly, much of who he is was pretty evident from the beginning.
He keeps a spotless bedroom but leaves dishes in the sink. He is an honor roll student and does his own laundry. He teases his brothers. When COVID hit last year and our restaurant was reduced to carryout for several months, he independently asked to work with my husband every day to help out and wouldn’t accept a paycheck for several weeks. He continued to work this last year every day he wasn’t in school. He saved his money and contributed half of the price for the car he wanted. He found his own car, communicated with the salesman and set up an appointment on his own. He once used Amazon Prime Now to order a pint of ice cream and a 4 pack of sweet tea while my husband and I were out to dinner. We changed our Amazon password and he figured the second one out in 24 hours. When he was younger and my grandmother would visit, he would take it upon himself to make her tea in the morning and take it to her. He was born a week late, but we quickly learned he often needs the confidence born from taking your time.
He was born an old soul and sometimes it felt like he was raising us.
I have touched on the fact that, for a variety of reasons, my husband and I had to grow up quickly and too soon. Childhood is such a small fraction of our lifetime and it was always a top priority of ours to preserve it for our children. Life sometimes has a way of disrupting our plans and just as life disrupted our childhood, life disrupted this past year of his childhood.
I thought about that and the fact I probably should have popped a Dramamine, as I sat in the passenger seat that first time his hands clutched the steering wheel. He may be chronologically only another year older but some how, he seems much older than he did this time last year.
Because while we try our best to shield our children from any discomfort the world is handing out, we often find we will never be able to fully protect them. We get to hold their hand for a portion of their life and guide them, but there comes a point when it is time to fall behind and let them walk ahead of us. It’s a tough transition from driver to passenger, it is even more difficult when you know you will soon be riding in the backseat.
The other day, while we were driving, I noticed his tightened grip at 10 and 2 on the steering wheel as he tried to turn. I reminded him that you can’t steer every movement of a car, sometimes you have to move your hands or loosen your grip and just guide the steering of the car.
“I am a little scared, Mom.”, he said
Me too, Bud, but you’re going to be just fine. You’re not the only one scared, we are not so sure we are ready to be the passengers soon to only be along for the ride.
Especially when all we can see is this face, looking back at us from the driver’s seat of a car.