My graduated senior has been gone for just over a month on his grand “Capstone” trip to Israel and Eastern Europe. He is with 80 of his classmates and by all accounts seems to be having an amazing time. I rarely call him and only occasionally text him. I am comfortable letting him explore life and experience it separate from me. Sure, I miss him but feel glad he is out doing wonderful things and not sitting in my basement.
Something interesting seems to be happening, however – the teenager who wanted to be with his friends 99% of the time and only spent occasional moments with me now actually reaches out to check in with home base occasionally. And not just to tell me he is fine or to ask for money. He wants to share his experiences with me – imagine that. I’m pleasantly surprised and happy to hear from him.
As you would imagine, learning about and seeing the sites where the atrocities of the Holocaust occurred is emotional for anyone. An almost-18-year-old, on the cusp of adulthood is no exception. He is in the throes of forming his identity as a Jewish young man and finding his place in the world, while looking at the past and thinking about the future. Heavy stuff, for sure.
He face-timed me from Poland so he could tell me everything he had done and seen. He told me that one of his teachers was awesome, and that he found him so “compelling.” Compelling? Really? When did he start using that word? We had a great conversation as he tried to capture his experience for me. I hung up after twenty minutes and felt a moment of complete bliss. I knew it wouldn’t last, but in that moment I felt joyful about the man my son is becoming. He didn’t sound like a spoiled, entitled teenager but rather an adult who feels deeply and is interested in learning about his history, culture, and religion.
A few days later he texted me pictures from Prague with the caption “absolutely stunning.” I have never heard my son use the word “stunning” or known him to be aware of, much less be so moved by landscape in his life. It’s quite a kick to see your offspring become someone who you can picture yourself hanging out with and it’s a welcome relief to have a reciprocal conversation full of adult topics and not just housekeeping issues.
I have no delusions that the road ahead will be perfect and rosy. My son is a typical young man and we are typical parents. I at least feel optimistic about the future. Hopeful, I guess. It beats feeling gloomy. So much of parenting is full of angst and agitation – I’ll take the good moments when they come my way and savor them. I hope he keeps moving forward and checking back in.