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The trouble with kids

Lost

When my children were toddlers, they liked to wriggle away from me to hide in the center of a department store clothes rack.  They delighted in the game of hide-and-seek, and while I frantically searched for them, they quietly enjoyed a little taste of freedom surrounded by last winter’s coats.  The panic, frustration and fear-fueled anger I felt gave way to enormous relief when I peeked into that last rack of clothing to find my giggling child.

I continued to have those same feelings of despair and helplessness, anger and relief when my now grown children began to stretch the boundaries of their freedoms. There was that dinnertime knock at the door, opened to a deputy sheriff. Then there was the discovery of an empty bed, on two separate occasions with a different teenager missing each time, for the Sunday morning church wake-up call. I cannot count the number of times a child went home with a friend after school and did not remember to check-in until walking through the door well after dinner.  While there were many other infractions with four children, these have been among the most notable.

I was once embarrassed by their action because I believed others in my small community would pass judgment on my parenting skills. Then I realized I had done my best to help to raise four very independent-minded people.  Regardless of what I may say to them, or the example I try to set by the way I live my life, my children seem to learn better through their experiences.  Allowing each of them to learn life’s hard lessons on their own is the best thing I can do for them as their dad, even though it is much harder for me than may appear.

Watching my children learn how to become adults, I still feel the panic, frustration, and fear-fueled anger when I discover they are lost. I also feel enormous relief when they choose to let me find them.  Considering I want to give unconditional love and protection to my children, and my children seem to want unconditional love and comfort from me, it is so unfortunate we all allow the game of hide-and-seek to continue.

Still, we do.

And at this very moment, I would like nothing more than to pull back those winter coats and peek inside the rack to find my lost, but giggling child.

______

Photo Credit: Remember hiding in the clothes racks? by InfiniteWorld

Freedom

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The Boy, the Niece, and I spent the day milling around Savannah after a college visit with Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). The city buzzes with creativity; young artists and musicians freely share their talents and ideas without fear of judgment. The city and its people nurture creativity and encourage freedom of expression.

To me, the city feels like a wonderful place for budding talent to fully bloom. Time will tell if the Boy and the Niece will feel the same. Regardless, it’s their choice.

I am certain, though, that they will achieve artistic success regardless of the college or life path they choose. Today, I learned that they already understood something that took me nearly twenty years to learn: creativity thrives only when given complete freedom for individual expression.

Two teenagers got in the car with me yesterday. Two adults got out of the same car this evening. The funny thing is I don’t think they changed at all during the last twenty-four hours.

 

The Boy

Michael_and_jerseyThe Boy had only been awake a few minutes, but he had already snagged his favorite spot on the couch where he and the cat sat watching cartoons when I snapped this picture.

There’s a touch of sleepiness still in his eyes, his hair sticks up a little, and his smile reflects his naturally pleasant attitude and his kind spirit, even at the early hour. Even at his young age.

Tonight we’re in Savannah for a college visit.

Just as when he was small, I take one last look in on him in the next room before I go to bed. I can’t tuck him in; he’s too old for that. Still, I can’t help but to see the Boy from the picture as he takes his eyes off the television for a moment, looks at me, and smiles.

I can see the sleepiness in his eyes. His hair sticks up in different places now, yet his smile still reflects the kindness he carries in his heart.

I love the Boy more than he can ever know.

 

Learning to let go of the wheel

It’s a difficult road from being the dad of a teenage girl to becoming the friend/dad of a young woman.  My desire to protect her and save her too often gets in the way of my desire that she discover for herself who she is becoming.  I regularly forget that she no longer needs me to remind her to fasten her safety belt or to check the oil; she only needs me to let her get behind the wheel. Truthfully, I have never been very comfortable as a passenger on any journey.

Unfortunately, the subtleties of this changing landscape elude me and my navigational skills are proving to be of limited use when I am no longer at the wheel.  In fact, the view from the back seat is much different, and my ability to successfully provide guidance, direction, and support is seemingly lost somewhere in this translation.  It probably doesn’t help that I’m prone to yell, “car…Car….CAR!!!” when she’s stopped paying attention instead of simply encouraging her to keep her eyes on the road ahead.

As hard as it is to do, I know that I need to let her navigate for herself, and acknowledge to myself that a backseat driver really doesn’t make the road any safer.  I often forget that the noise from the back seat makes it harder for the driver to concentrate on the road ahead.  I so clearly fail to recognize when her actions represent, “I will turn this car around, mister!” even when she’s not entirely comfortable saying those words.  Whether she says them or not, I do understand that I am only a passenger on this new journey at the driver’s request.

She is becoming a good driver. I am so very proud of her and her initiative in mapping out the path ahead.  While she may choose different roads on this journey than I would have chosen, this is her journey, and I am confident that she will get to the destination of her choosing.  She has her own GPS device now, and I suppose I should be comforted that it may be powered, in some very small part, by a few simple maps she downloaded from me.

It just doesn’t make it any easier to let go of the wheel

—-

So I will dance with Cinderella

While she is here in my arms

‘Cause I know something the prince never knew

Oh, I will dance with Cinderella

I don’t want to miss even one song

‘Cause all too soon the clock will strike midnight

And she’ll be gone

~Steven Curtis Chapman, Cinderella

 

Photo Credit: Holding Daddy’s Hand by Roger’s Wife

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