This post is part of Linda G.Hill’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday meme.
The idea is simple – post an unedited stream of consciousness piece that ties into the weekly prompt. This week, it’s “Age”.
Age has been very much on my mind the last few weeks. In early July, my daughter – my youngest child – turned 10, a milestone age. Three weeks after that, I turned 45 – halfway between 40 and 50, halfway to age 90 – it’s both exciting, and a little intimidating. My youth is past, and time seems to be more precious than I once thought it was, and I’m less inclined to want to waste it on things that don’t fulfill me or meet my own purposes in life.
It’s been nearly five weeks since my birthday, and my son’s is fast approaching. It’s a momentous day for him, too – he will be thirteen.
Yes, I’m about to be the mother of an adolescent.
It seems like it was just a blink ago that he was born – a giant baby boy weighing over ten pounds, who could hold up his own head right from the start. But now he’s almost as tall as me, and most likely will be before another birthday passes. He’s thinking about his future; he’s a year from the age where he can get his working papers and, then, a “real job”. He’s been excited about that, and looking forward to it, since he was eleven, and now that it’s so close, he’s getting pretty serious about the idea. He’s three years from being old enough to get his driver’s license, and he routinely asks questions about driving rules and technique, and has expressed an interest in saving for a car of his own.
He’s growing up. Were we Jewish, he’d be celebrating with a bar miztvah, and he would be considered an adult. In many other cultures, and in many times in history, that would be true. It’s our current American society that keeps people of this age firmly in the “child” category. While he’s still a few years from being legally independent (another facet of our society, and not necessarily one I agree with, since many people who are legally conferred adult status do not react and respond in a rational or responsible manner; there is something suspect to me in tying maturity to age, as though they truly are one and the same.)
No, he’s not an adult – not quite yet. But then, neither is he a child who needs me to make the small decisions of his life- or even, in truth, not nearly so many of the larger ones. I, personally, don’t base my children’s freedom to make their own choices upon age or social convention, but rather upon the capacity to make those choices. Larger choices are based upon the foundation of making smaller ones, of succeeding, and failing, too. There are things to be learned from the choices that work, and also from those that don’t turn out the way they hoped.
When he was seven, we began exploring and evolving our family life from one where we were authoritarian parents – honestly, I was more like a tyrant, controlling every possible aspect of my childrens’ lives, and imposing strict and often harsh consequences when they didn’t meet my standards (which were too high for their abilities) – to a partnering relationship, where we help them to have the greatest possible degree of autonomy in their own lives.
So now, as he spends his last few days as a preteen, he has nearly six years of choosing under his belt. He’s chosen what to wear, whether and how to cut his hair, what to read, watch, eat, play, when and where to sleep, whether to accept work, when and how to save or spend his money, and what to do with nearly all of his time. In the last year or two, he’s also had a great deal more freedom in deciding whether he will go with us when we leave the house, or remain behind. He’s twice had the freedom, during a weekend unschooling conference, to sign charges to our hotel room as he wished.
Yes, there are some big choices coming up, for him. Whether I dominate his life, or not, that’s as true for him as it is for anyone approaching adulthood. Parents can try to control their kids, and, when they’re little, it might even work. But he’s not little now, and it would be hard to control someone almost as big as me, who’s physically stronger than I am, and who is only five years from the legal age of independence. Such attempts at control would be illusory, at best, and, at worst, could destroy our relationship – or even his life, if he were driven to extreme measures to resist my efforts to run his life.
Thirteen. It’s a bit surreal, this coming birthday, and what it means, to him and to me. He’s not little; he’s big. He’s not truly dependent; he’s capable in so many ways. He’s becoming an adult, right now, and there’s really no way to put the brakes on that.
I’m a little apprehensive, but a lot more excited. For him, because he’s well on the way to being a man, and he’s going to be a good one – already, he’s kind, generous, sensitive, responsible, thoughtful, and has personal convictions and the courage to follow through on them. He’s a great many other things, too, but there isn’t enough room in this post to go into deep detail…
I’m also excited for me, because this change is also a change for me, and for our family. This getting-older boy, busily becoming a man, means there is an ending coming, for me, and a beginning. He doesn’t need me in the same way, already, and, once he becomes a man, it will be different, still. It’s a time for me to release him to his life, and expand more wholly into my own.
Age is so often just an undercurrent to life – but, right now, right here in my own, it seems like a tidal wave of significance.
Do you enjoy stream-of consciousness writing? Anyone can play, so long as they are willing to follow a few simple rules. See you next week, for another live-streaming look into the lovely chaos in my mind! =)