Today J had a chance to go into our new home while the workers were still in there plugging away at the trim and the kitchen. To say that he dug his heels right outside the door is to put it mildly. He not only refused (with a huge smile on his face,) but he VOCALLY refused (with a huge smile on his face.) Like a child given the chance to peek at all the surprises being hoarded for Christmas morning, he opted for the full surprise. No half-measures. He wants to see the whole thing, not the bones and sinews of it…
I don’t blame him. To J this is probably the equivalent of seeing the ingredients of a cake on top of the counter and being unable to imagine what the end result will be like. He’d rather just have the cake. He’d rather not know what goes into it, and waits for the deliciousness of that first bite and all successive ones.
Today, the first day of J’s second summer vacation, we went out for our errands. Once more he repeated the name of the store a zillion times from the moment I mentioned that we were going out to the moment when he realized TGG had turned onto the street that leads us there. At the store we bought the mini-blinds for their bedrooms because, facing the afternoon sun day in-day out, they will really need them. With J’s seating arrangement for the TV room resolved (and not a moment too soon, if you ask me) with the purchase of his mondo-sized beanbag, now it’s TGG’s turn to find something to sit on…
And here we come to next part of my story, which is bittersweet.
You know how you’re always telling your kids that life and time pass by quite quickly on their own without us insisting on rushing it? You know how I’ve told you that on every birthday I remind them to live “this age because it’s the only time you WILL BE this age, and there are no do-overs?” Well, adulthood has fallen on TGG like an anvil falls on Wile E. Coyote in all those Roadrunner cartoons…
TGG works (as he has been for nearly two years now) at the same hospital where Dada works. TGG also goes to school four nights a week to earn his Medical Assistant Certification in hopes of improving his earning power and, possibly, launching a career in the Healthcare field (because it’s the only one, as we all know, that seems to be booming aside from that of asinine reality TV stars.) Last evening, between one activity and the other (that is, between 4:15 when he gets home and 5:00 when he leaves for his class,) TGG sat down and told me he feels like he works only to pay bills. He looked defeated and overwhelmed. He looked nothing like the kid who used to lark about rolling his eyes whenever we told him that this day would come. He looked…like a younger version of the adults WE have become over the course of years.
Forget about the birds and the bees (and the Viennese, like Blossom Dearie sings in Down With Love,) THIS is the the most shocking realization a kid can have. Yeah, yeah, the sex thing is a real eye-opener, but that conversation you have once when they’re young enough to realize that there are things that shouldn’t be allowed to others, and then again when they’re old enough to make a stupid decision, and farther down the road when you have to remind them that kids are a lifelong commitment and you don’t want to have one until you can care for the child’s needs with as much abandon as you want to fulfill your “wants.”
The “you’ll have time to grow up so enjoy not being a grown-up yet” conversation (or “speech,” as TGG always referred to it) has been repeated ad nauseam. It has also been ignored ad nauseam. Yesterday’s admission that, much to his horror, we had been right all along was a bitter pill for TGG to chew on, and I have to confess that I was far from enjoying seeing him squirm. By the time he got back from class he felt better, but he was much humbled by his new understanding of what we’ve been going through all along.
“How do you guys manage?,” he asked. I had to confess that we don’t always “manage.” At times we escape with our feathers singed and our pride neatly tucked between our legs like tails. Suddenly, the realization that his trip to NYC after high school graduation was more of a sacrifice financially than we’d be willing to do for ourselves came upon him. Suddenly, he understood all those times when we said “well, we’re sorry but you’re going to have to get the pants that are not fashionable…you’ll live.” Our many affronts to his dignity (all of them hyperbolized by a teenaged mind) suddenly seemed banal… “But we always have food! But we live in a decent place!,” he said woefully, and we replied “because we think you guys need to be well cared for, and we want to live where we are safe and comfortable…not fancy, but safe and comfortable.”
Dear Abby came to mind. You know her, right? Abigail Van Buren, the woman to whom a generation turned in search of advice from her column in the newspapers. I remember reading this a long time ago, and when I saw someone post it on Facebook I immediately “shared” it on my wall though I think the most important thing is that I’ve tried to do precisely what she advised: If you want your children to turn out well, spend twice as much time with them, and half as much money.
I think yesterday we got a little closer to seeing this come to fruition. TGG’s slightly bruised and rumpled by adulthood, and sooner than he wanted to be, but better now than when his responsibilities extend to a wife (or girlfriend or whoever he eventually chooses to partner up with) and children.
In the end, we all want to see “it” when it’s ready. We’re afraid of how it’s put together at one moment, and fascinated by its inner workings the next. But, ultimately, whatever IT is, we will get there and, hopefully, things will work out…eventually.