Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The road not taken

When Jack was a toddler he decided he'd like to wear glasses. It might have had something to do with a certain aardvark named Arthur but, regardless, he was determined his life would be infinitely more wonderful if he were wearing glasses. When I told him that his eyes were just fine and he didn't need glasses... he took matters into his own hands.

When Jack was five years old he wore a sport coat and tie to pre-K for three months straight. He would play on the playground in full coat and tie. He would ride his bike in his little suit. He would go to friend's houses in full dress.

Even once he lost the daily coat and tie he still spent most of his 5th year in some form of semi-formal attire even if it was just a snappy plaid shirt with a bow tie. All because he liked it.

In grade school, when all of his friends were getting buzz cuts and dreaming of becoming major league ball players, Jack grew his hair long and took up skateboarding with a passion.

We had visions of broken bones, concussions and a slippery slope to a life of crime but...none of those fears came to pass. Skateboarding proved to be a great outlet for our athletic but non-competitive boy. It gave him a unique, diverse social circle that taught us all something about acceptance and being slow to judge based on appearances. That, and he knows every parking lot, sketchy alley and set of concrete stairs in the greater Seattle area. I'm sure that knowledge will come in handy at some point.

Last year, his American History teacher had this to say about Jack:

Jack marches comfortably to the beat of his own drummer. Always upbeat, always smiling. I appreciate his positive attitude and unique outlook on life.

Not many words about Jack's study habits or scholarship but I still read those words with a smile and a nod. Thinking to myself, Yep, that's my boy.

All of this is to say that I really shouldn't have been surprised when his college decision ended up being the one I absolutely least expected. 

Completely, totally...did. not. see. this. coming.

I really should know by now though that if there is one thing you can count in with Jack, it is for him to take his own path, in his own time, in his own way.

But because of that I guess I always thought he'd be one to want to go away, to go somewhere different and experience a new place, new people,  a new climate perhaps (our maritime climate has frequently interfered with his skateboarding). I always thought he'd be itching to GO.


He's staying as close to home as he could get without participating in some sort of online university from his bedroom. He will, in fact, not be living at home (no way, no how) but if he were feeling particularly energetic he could walk home if he wanted to. It's that close.

I won't lie, at first I was disappointed. Concerned. I worried what this would mean for his "college experience." But with further thought, I realized my concerns had little to do with whether this school was the right fit for Jack and more to do with the fact that he was making a college choice that was very different from the choice I had made.

Yeah, the kid was daring to blaze his own trail and choose his own path.


And then I knew this was my opportunity to start learning how to parent an adult child. Don't get me wrong, I don't think of Jack as an adult yet. I don't think Jack thinks of Jack as an adult yet. But he's headed that direction and if there is one thing I have observed in watching some tricky adult child-parent relationships, it is that it is very, very dangerous to start creating expectations in your mind as to who your adult child should or shouldn't be. And you definitely need to be careful that you don't take personally any decision your child makes that might differ from your own life's journey.

I chose to go two states away for college. Jack has chosen to go two miles away.

Good for me. Good for him.

Truth be told, my experience had its pluses and minuses. His probably will too.

And in the end, his "college experience" will largely depend on what he makes of it.

And if I know Jack, it will truly be his own.

He will find his own way to fly, probably in the way we least expect.

And it will be awesome to watch.

I'm sure of that.

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