There is a scene in the John Hughes film "Sixteen Candles" that is currently resonating with me: As the suburban high school kids are pulling up to the gymnasium for the big dance, a station wagon comes screeching to a halt right in front of the doors, and a middle-aged man and woman jump out and drag a teen-aged boy from the back seat. As they pull him toward the door, he keeps pleading, "Please Mom and Dad! I don't want to go! I want to stay home with you!" The parents shove the kid inside as the fire doors lock behind them. Mission accomplished.
I cannot say that my son is having that same reaction to the high school dance. On the contrary. He is willing to make the best out of his dateless existence and go with some friends. In some ways, he is every bit the grown-up boy we had planned on having, perhaps even more evolved than either of his parents in his freshman year. But on some level, he seems determined to cling to us in other ways.
My wife and I woke up in September of this year with the sound of a clock ticking on the four years our son has left in high school. A few years back he had been announcing his intention to attend the University of California at Berkeley so he could "sleep at home." Lately, that list has expanded to include MIT and the University of Texas in Austin. These institutions have only anecdotally been connected to his higher education, with the expressed intent of being some kind of engineer. Now the only thing that stands in the way of his dreams is his report card.
Somehow his meteoric rise to academic superiority has stalled, and he is struggling to find his way through the first year of high school. We gave him all these words to have conversations about subjects that would lead him to bigger and better things. We taught him to type so that eventually he could type his own essays and college applications. We taught him to walk so that he could walk out the door.
I wonder if that ticking clock isn't keeping him awake as well.