Thursday, August 23, 2018

Parental Paradigm Shift

I've noticed that the truly momentous events in the parent-child relationship don’t turn out to be the ones for which there are Hallmark cards and pages in the baby books. Sure, I celebrated my son’s birthdays and school promotions and confirmation, but if I had to choose moments when my son changed from one thing into another it would be moments like the first time he walked into the kitchen during dinner when I had left him in the family room. He WALKED in. Suddenly, my whole understanding of who he was and what our relationship was transformed.

I had another such moment tonight. As a mom, and, I’ll admit, as a high school teacher, I wasn’t expecting my son’s first day of high school to be more than another, albeit important, first day. I find, though, that after tonight, my vision of him has shifted. This summer he was a frequently and deliberately irritating middle-school boy. He was largely who he has been for the last decade. Although the change was likely more gradual than it feels, tonight I saw a different person.

When the marching band took the field, I honestly wasn’t expecting anything, but I was still surprised. It’s not that I thought he wasn’t going to be just fine, but I wouldn’t be entirely honest if I didn’t confess that I slightly anticipated that the fact that he’s never done anything remotely like marching band would maybe show a little. Maybe he’d be just a fraction of a step off or just going through the motions but not precise. Nope. He was, as far as I could tell, perfect. Perfectly in step. Sharp, perfectly crisp turns. He was as good as anyone else out there. When the band had to do dance moves, he looked cool. He looked like he’s been dancing all of his life. I mean, the kid—ahem teen—is fantastic! I had no idea. He learned all of that while I wasn’t watching.

Just as impressive is the story I heard from my husband, who watched him execute the day of high school, cross country practice, marching band performance, and team recognition. He wore one outfit to school and did a whole school day in a new building with a new schedule and new teachers. Piece of cake. Then he went to cross country practice and ran. He ate a sandwich, put on his white t-shirt and khaki pants to match the cross country team, and then put his band uniform on over that, including the pants. He performed flawlessly with the band--including the trombone suicides--left the field, stripped off one layer of clothes, threw on the cross country jacket one of his teammates carried out to the field for him, and then lined up with the team. He not only accomplished all of this in a day but planned ahead to make it happen without any direction, and he made it look effortless. Today was a big deal to me because it was not a big deal to him. Just another day in the life of a young man who has it together and gets it together on his own.

Maybe my jaw dropped just a little as I watched him on the field tonight. I can look backward in my mind and see the kid he used to be—only a month ago, I swear!—and I can turn my head just a bit and see the sharp, responsible, level-headed, capable man he is already becoming. I wasn’t prepared for that to happen. But he was.

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