Friday, September 5, 2008

They Grow Up Fast

My oldest boy, Anthony, came to me a couple of days ago with a costume catalog in his hands and announced, "Hey dad, I found what I want to be for Halloween this year." With his best salesman face on, he proceeded to show me a picture of a Darth Vader costume complete with a red light saber and all the other bells and whistles. "I was thinking..." he went on to explain, "that I could do some jobs for you to earn the money to buy it."

Now comes a great opportunity as a parent. The price tag on it was $49.95 Not outrageously expensive, but also not a freebie like the classic ghost, (aka an old sheet with eye holes cut out in it.) The easy thing to do here would be to say, "That's alright, we'll go ahead and buy it for you." Sure we could afford to buy it and he would be happy with that as an answer, but I really read more into his sales pitch than just something that simple. What I understood from this short interaction was this, "Dad, I'm getting a little bit older and I'd like to take on some more responsibility. I have a goal in mind and I want to prove to you that I'm mature enough to find a means of reaching it."

You may be saying that's a lot to read into those few words he spoke, but to fully understand it you would have to know Anthony as I do. He's a boy well beyond his years emotionally and intellectually. Yes I'm biased, I'm his father, but I'm also quite confident that I'd say the same thing even if I weren't his dad.

This is the part where reality slaps me right up beside my head. Like it or not, my little boy is growing up. Sure I've seen plenty of indicators of this before. For some reason though, this one event just stood out above all the rest.

These are the moments as a parent where a seemingly easy decision becomes instantly more complex. Instead of taking the quick solution and just buying the costume, I looked to the words behind the words and decided to give him an opportunity to grow, to prove, to excel, to exercise his independence.

I told him I would come up with some projects so he could buy the Darth Vader costume. Ironically, a couple of days before this, my brother Mark had looked out the sliding glass door of my house and said, "What's up with that set of steps? That looks like a good Anthony project." What he was referring to was a set of cedar steps I'd built a few years earlier. the weather has taken its toll on them and they are past due for a sanding and re-stain.

Perfect. This afternoon I gathered up Anthony, the sander and a pair of goggles. After a bit of instruction and direction, I turned him loose. The determination in his eyes confirmed that I'd made the right decision. He attacked the project like a seasoned veteran.

He did such a great job on the first part of this. Just one of those proud papa moments I know I'll always cherish.

I'll be sure to give you all an update as this progresses.


CrazyCath said...

It's bittersweet isn't? Those moments - full of pride for their maturity, and grief for the child gone. I know exactly how this is.
Treasure those moments. They come once.

Akelamalu said...

Your son sounds like a great young man! You did the right thing giving him responsibility in exchange for something he wants. :)

Vodka Mom said...

okay. I just LOVE this story. He's a great kid- but more importantly here, you're a great dad.

Carol said...

This is a great post. One that shows the love and respect between you and your dear son. Cherish these memories with him. You know he will always remember the Dart Vader costume that he 'earned'!

Dana said...

It says so much about the parents when the kids are responsible and offer solutions to "problems." You and your wife have clearly done a great job!

Jeff B said...

Crazycath- Bittersweet is the perfect word here. Being torn between wanting to see him become a man, and wishing he was still that innocent little boy we brought into this world.

Akelamalu- He really is a special guy. Lisa and I feel blessed to have him in our lives.

Vodka Mom- Thanks. I just keep hoping as he continues to grow, my good decisions will outnumber the poor ones.

Carol- I'm sure the value of this costume will far outweigh the monetary aspect of it.

Jeff B said...

Dana- Small life lessons now that will hopefully carry on throughout his adult years.

Sandee (Comedy +) said...

Let me add that both you and your wife have instilled this in him. This is not by chance. I see to many parents these days that let everyone else raise their children while their head is stuck in the sand. I applaud you for being a good parent. You are not reaping your hard work. Bravo! Have a great weekend. :)

buffalodickdy said...

My kids both had press routes before they got their 1st "I'm 16 now" jobs... I let them know all that money was theirs, to save or buy what they wanted...Today, I have two kids that are now adults- that manage their money quite well!

Jeni said...

This is fantastic for you -and for your son - that he has this sense of responsibility ingrained in him to offer to work for something he wants! My stepgranddaughter here -age almost 17 -would merely plunk a picture down in front of my daughter or her dad and say "This is what I want!" With no expectation of doing ANYTHING whatsoever to get it -to EARN it! But that is what she has learned from early on -to tell adults around her she WANTS this, EXPECTS this to just be handed to her. Sadly, for her, she landed my daughter as her stepmother and my daughter is not so inclined to just go buy and give. But when Mandy responds to a request by laying out plans of ways Kate could "earn" something, the mere mention of something that sounds remotely like work, immediately turns the kid off!
The fact your son came and offered to do things speaks legions there! Whatever you and Lisa have done to instill that in him, wish you would give instructions -or write a "self-help parenting" book that shows guidelines to others to use -before it is too late! Congrats to you and your wife for having achieved that with your son -it will help him immensely during his life ahead.

Ron said...

Bravo, Jeff!

Not only to you...but also to Anthony!!

I'm not a parent, but I SOOOO totally agree with your way of thinking.


I think this is SOOO important to share with a child.

Looks like Anthony already knew this!

Can't wait to read about the update!

You GO, Anthony!

P.S. do you think I over-use exclaimation points?!!!

Jules~ said...

That is great. I am sure you are not reading too much into his statement.
It is something isn't it?....that mixed feeling we get realizing our children are a step closer to adulthood.

Jeff B said...

Sandee- As we go through the process of child raising, we often wonder, "Am I doing the right thing?" I certainly don't profess to hit the mark 100% of the time, but at least these instances help instill that we're on the right track.

Buffalo- That's exactly the goal I'm striving for with both the boys. It will serve them well for many years to come.

Jeni- I certainly don't put myself in a "write the book" type of crowd. Just passing on wisdom that was given to me by my own parents. This is as much about Anthony being a responsible kid as anything Lisa or I are doing. Kind of the old, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make them drink." saying.

Ron!- I've alwa!ys found that a ! well placed !!exclamation poin!t can add a cert!ain amount of val!ue to any statement!!! The key is ! to use them sparingly!!!!!!!!

Jeff B said...

Jules- It really is. Makes you want to squeeze them even tighter, but you realize that they are ready to stand on their own for longer periods of time. We're certainly not ready for him to fly solo, but we know that day will come too.

Gene Bach said...

I'm going to turn you in for violating the child labor laws in your state.

By the way, I think I'm going to buy him a goose call for Chiristmas this year. A REALLY loud one.

Desert Songbird said...

Oh, okay, it's time for me to 'fess up - last year, we went ahead and bought the damn Vader costume outright for my son. My husband's fault - he did it.

Don't think, though, that my son didn't do things afterwards to earn it, but at the time, I was questioning my husband's sanity.

Your son is doing you proud, Jeff.

Jeff B said...

Gene- If that were the case, dad would have been arrested when all of us were kids too. And it sounds like Anthony will be spending the summer with you and the goose call!

Songbird- No guilt implied. There have been plenty of times when we went the "just buy it" route too. This was different because he came to me with his proposition in mind first.

Anndi said...

One... GOGGLES! Woohoo! Yeah, I'm a dork.

Two... You and Lisa do have quite a lot to be proud of. Anthony is a fine boy. Scratch that, a fine young man.

You're doing your father proud.


Jeff B said...

Anndi- He had a dust mask on for the most part, but saw the camera coming out and didn't want to look too much the geek. Of all those that read this, I knew you'd be the one to pick up on that.

Rhea said...

That's awesome, Jeff! Way to take a great opportunity for growth and more maturity and run with it. You're such a good dad!

I can remember the things I worked for as a child/preteen, and those things meant a lot to me. I never forgot them.

nitebyrd said...

You should definitely be proud of your son, yourself and your wife.

You done good!

Travis said...

Nice. Sounds like you made a good decision there. Of course, it also sounds like you and your wife have been doing a great job all along.

He didn't come to you and say he'd found a costume and ask you get it for him. He said he'd found something he wanted and was ready to do what was necessary to get it on his own.

Mel said...

k......made me all teary eyed....

Wonder why that is...

What a grand young man you have there, Jeff.
And I gotta admire the parents who helped him arrive to exactly where you guessed he was.

k....another lump in the throat....

((((( Jeff )))))

Mel said...

OH! Darth Vader for HALLOWEEN!!!

k....there's a kiddo after my own heart!


Sandi McBride said...

This was such a great post, shows exactly what type of parent you are...a terrific parent and how I wish there were more like you in this world.

Dianne said...

I love the photo, he looks so determined!

How cool that you heard the words behind the words.

Jeff B said...

Rhea- Earning them certainly adds an element of value to them.

Nitebyrd- I like to think we each compliment the other quite well. Thanks.

Travis- Let's hope this ground work will pay off during the teen years too.

Mel- I'll be sure to post a picture of the whole get up.

Sandi- The values my parents taught me are being passed to the next generation. Hopefully it's a cycle that stays unbroken.

Dianne- He finished the project at about 6:30 this evening. He wasn't going to let the sun set again until he had it whipped.

mrsnesbitt said...

Wow! What a great lad. Yes my dad taught me lots, sadly he is no longer around and today would have been his birthday. The lessons he taught me are instilled in my very bones.

Keep us posted and would love to see him in costume.
May the Force be with you!
Darth Vader, the only asthmatic time traveller! LOL!

Kimmie said...

Jeff, that was a wonderful story. It is an amazing thing to see the fruits of our child rearing start to take shape in our children. He sounds like one great little guy that has some really wonderful parents.

Hammer said...

What a good kid!

Jeff B said...

MrsNesbitt- Laughing at "the only asthmatic time traveler"

Kimmie- He really is a great kid, I'm fortunate to have he and his brother as a part of my life.

Hammer- Agreed!

jennifer said...

I am watching my daughters become women and it breaks my heart. Every milestone, every year.. takes them further away from me. They will be up and out of here before I know it.

Yeah, I know what you mean.

lime said...

here from david's. it's a moment like that which makes a parent feel like they have somehow succeeded in some measure. this is the good kind of "they're growing up so fast." kudos to both you and your son.

Deb said...

Hi ~ I found this post to be reassuring. We often hear only about the 'bad' parents who abuse and abandon their kids or only about the 'bad' kids who steal, or hurt others. This story is the type of stuff we all should focus on - positive, responsible parents focusing on raising responsible children. Thank you.

Millennium Housewife said...

What an insightful father you are, your kids are very lucky! Hope the sanding went ok.. MH

Merisi said...

Oh, you found a great job for him! :-)

I remember my son, as a four year old, offering to "clean the house", charging by the room. He actually did it, after a hard round of negotiations. At the ended I ended up paying a quart of a dollar extra for the closets. ;-)

Jeff B said...

Jennifer- It's an interesting paradox. We nurture them and encourage their independence and then become teary eyed when they achieve it. Wouldn't change it tough, much like you I would suppose.

Lime- I do have periods of "I wonder if this is sinking in" with both he and his brother, but as you indicated, these instances help to reassure that they are.

Deb- Yeah, if you listen to the media, you'd be under the assumption that there are no decent children left in the world. Too bad they focus on the negative when all that does is instill that type of behavior.

Millennium Housewife- The sanding went great. I'm going to do a follow-up post later today with pics of the completed project.

Merisi- That's a cool tidbit. It's fun when they want to jump in and help, and even better when they get old enough to really do more things.

katherine. said...

I didn't have the chance to read all the comments....but I am sure I am not alone in saying that good parenting does pay off here and there! (I especially give you kudos for raising a star wars fan.....laughing)

I have made use of teenage boys to do chores They usually need the extra cash...and many have beat up trucks to haul things in.

I did notice that when the teenage boys were friends of my daughters it was much easier to recruit them...than when it was my own boy and his

How cool you now have someone to do things like refinish the steps. Although....I think you should be paying him more...that is tough work!