Monday, February 06, 2006

Happy Birthday, Buddy!

Today is my son's 17th birthday. It's a big milestone for me as a parent, even if (so far) he doesn't act as if it is one for him. You see, a 16 year old is still a rookie teenager, just barely out of pre-adolescence, learning to drive, learning the real way of the world. 17, in my mind, is an apprentice adult. At this age, he should have the maturity to make smart decisions without the input of his parents, and -- hopefully -- be more concerned about his future than his present. In short, he's getting ready to take his place as an independent in society.

Now, I don't really think there is anything magical about the number 17. Some kids have this maturity much earlier, some don't really develop it until much later. But one year from today, for better or worse, he will be an adult in the eyes of the law. At that point, if he wants to tell his dear old dad to go stuff himself, there's not a thing I can do to stop him. He's got one more year of training, and he will never have another birthday as a child. That's a sobering thought. Turning 18 is something of a celebration, but I think there is a lot of anxiety and pressure in turning 17, just because that legal change is coming -- and coming fast. It hasn't been all that long since he was just learning to drive, yet in just that same amount of time, he's going to be 100% responsible for his own actions. This is as stressful for the parents as it is for the teens, of course. This is it, our last year to try impart our values, or better yet, the ability for our child to develop his own values after reasonable thought. We've just got a year to finish giving him the life lessons he needs to survive, and, like every parent, we're worried that we haven't taught him everything he needs to succeed and won't have time to do so in the next twelve months.

But we've got it luckier than most parents. My son is a good kid. I'm extremely, extremely proud of him, practically every day. I try to make him aware of that, but I'm sure I don't always succeed. Happy birthday, buddy. It's a big step!

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