David transformed from a little boy to a tall, thin, handsome young man right before my eyes. He gets a kick out of the fact that I now have to "look up" to him. I don't think it's funny. (Grrrr.) The sweet confidence he always had in himself has turned into that awkward middle-school dance between over-the-top-arrogance and extreme sensitivity. Every word seems to turn into drama around here. Sigh. Wishing he could have stayed a little boy just a little longer. Even Christmas shopping is hard because he's changed so much in so little time. I can't believe we're looking at high schools already for next year.
Juan David turned eighteen and changed in his own ways, too. His whole attitude has stepped up a few notches, and he's looking more towards the future rather than the present. He said, "I know it's time to grow up, but I don't want to. I like my life!" But at the same time, he started to get serious about grades, responsibility, and wanting to prove he is ready to take a few new steps toward independence now.
In the last few months, he got his driver's permit, finished his driver's ed. course, survived his first job interview, and now passed his driver's test this week.
I know he's eighteen and quite a bit past the age to drive, but we very purposefully held off on the whole driving and working thing for as long as we could. Here's why:
My son experienced independence and freedom far too early in life. Children are supposed to grow up with a healthy dependence upon their parent, knowing they will come to their aid and provide for their needs. When those needs are met, they develop a sense of safety and security, and they very naturally attach to their parent. That didn't exactly happen for him the way it's supposed to, so he learned early on how to take care of himself, making sure he'd be okay even if no one met his needs.
By the time he came home to us at the age of fifteen, he felt more than ready to embrace the freedom, the privileges, and the independence that most teenagers are learning to manage at his age. Yet by giving him those freedoms he so desperately wanted, we would have set our family up for disaster.
He needed to learn that we, his parents, would take care of his needs. He needed to learn familial roles before getting to go out with friends. As much as being a taxi-mom wears me out, he needed to learn that we are there to take him where he needs to go and to pick him up when it's time to go home. We make the meals, manage the finances, buy clothes, shoes, and school supplies, transport everyone all over town, schedule doctor's appointments, attend church together, communicate with his teachers, and show up for every soccer game we can possibly make it to.
Had we given in to the begging to "be like everyone else his age", we would have missed the opportunity to bond and to attach by meeting many needs he thought he could meet on his own. Whether we tell him this or not, he had a lot of catching up to do emotionally, so meeting those basic needs gave us some time to fill in a few developmental and emotional gaps.
Yet now I'm torn. I know my time with him at home is limited. I know our car rides to school together are limited. I know my control of his schedule is limited, too. Yet while I want to hold him close just a little bit longer, I also have the responsibility to loosen the rope and guide him toward independence. I need to give him chances to earn and manage money so he can make mistakes and learn from them while still young. I need to let him learn the responsibilities that come with being a driver so he's prepared for the challenges and expenses that come with them. I need to give him that time away with friends so he can practice making choices away from us while we're still close enough to guide him.
I hate that we didn't get him until so late in life because of all the time we missed. But then I look in his eyes and remember what a gift he is, a gift we once thought we lost forever. Better late than never. I'll take what little time God gave us. I just hope and pray we don't waste a minute of that time or let it slip by without making the most of it.