As I write this, my 17 year old son Jacob is flying solo in Chicago. He’s cat-sitting for a friend of ours on the north side of the city, and right this moment is navigating his way downtown using the El so that he can take the Amtrak home for the holiday weekend.
What? A minor, alone in the big city? I’ll admit I thought the idea was kind of crazy even when I suggested it to our friend. Just think of all the things that could go wrong!
But the more I thought about it, the more I realized what a great opportunity this could be for Jacob to learn to spread his wings and have an adventure in relative safety. The fact is, this kid has lived a sheltered, small-town life for most of his years, and while I love the simplicity and safety of our little world, he’s also never really had the opportunity to try out big new things (like navigating a public-transportation system) without us being right there to help him. And while we have friends in Chicago who can bail him out if he gets himself in trouble, I am hopeful we’ve raised him to be resourceful and independent enough that he won’t need it. And, of course, I’m available to give him a little coaching from the sidelines via text.
Part of parenting well is knowing when it’s time to loosen the reins a bit, to step back and let our kids take another little step toward adulthood, even if it freaks us out. It’s summer, and a lot of us are weighing potential “firsts” – first time we let our little one ride a scooter to the end of the block or walk to the corner store by themselves; first time we let them swim in the deep end without floaties, go to a sleepover, head off to camp…your kids might not be dating or driving or applying to colleges yet, but all those little “firsts” are part of their process of separating from us and becoming competent, confident grownups. And that’s hard, and scary sometimes, but so, so necessary.
Today I’m rooting for Jacob, who’s experiencing that heady, exhilarating, and sometimes uncomfortable sense of independence we all felt when we had our first adventure away from parents, teachers, and other adults. And while I hope he’ll reach his destination smoothly, I keep remembering what I told him: “If you miss your stop, just jump off on the next stop and get right back on the train going in the other direction. It’ll take you back where you need to go.” Seems like a pretty good lesson for life itself, yes?
Here are some posts from the archives we think you’ll enjoy this month:
The little stories matter as much as the large, life-changing ones. They make up the fabric of our childhoods and our collective experiences, and now the stories my kids share are weaving together to create their own family mythology. The big stories, yes – the moves and the new siblings added and the graduations – but the little ones, too: the times they all sleep on the living-room floor and talk until the wee hours, the funny little phrases they’ve created, and whatever it is that’s going on in the back seat during those long road trips.
Lying on “my” edge of the bed hours earlier, nursing my hurt feelings while my teeth chattered, I’d intended to hang on to that icy distance until I got what I felt entitled to: an apology, maybe, or some grand gesture of conciliation. But by the time we woke up from our deep second slumber, I couldn’t even remember exactly what I’d been so upset about to begin with. Huddled together for warmth, we’d both made an unspoken decision to forget about it. Not to salvage our anniversary “date,” but out of respect for our marriage.
One of the things I love about summer is how relaxed it is.
One of the things I hate about summer is how relaxed it is.
We start off in the cool days of early June loving life, relishing in our new bedtimes, and spending long days relaxing in the yard with a glass of lemonade and a sprinkler.
But by the time we get to July, it’s apparent things have fallen apart a bit. Those slightly later bedtimes have turned into nightly free-for-alls where it’s a race to get the kids to actually go to bed before I drop off from exhaustion myself.
So I got to wondering if I could make a drink with a dry red wine flavor, less alcohol and fewer calories…and if said drink would be, well, drinkable.
It turns out the answer is yes – and the answer is, gasp, a red wine spritzer!
The Long Walk To The Pool (a post of Sarah’s that anyone doing swim lessons this summer will relate to!)
For two months I dreaded this walk. I fought it. I huffed and rolled my eyes and apologized to strangers for my dawdling children. I let the tension rise with every door we took 47 years to get through and every person we nearly bumped with the stroller. I wore the mantle of a mother burdened by her lot. And you know what? It worked. People felt sorry for me. They said things like “wow, you’ve got your hands full!”. They accepted my apologies and tossed scraps of grace and patience my way.
red wine spritzer photo: Didriks, via Flickr Creative Commons