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.