It's that closed door.
Back in the olden days, my son was just a couple of open doors away in the middle of the night. The bathroom between our two bedrooms was a thruway. We passed through there whenever there was a bad dream or a nervous night. It was security, knowing that those doors were never locked.
As he grew older, the privacy we all needed was enhanced by closing one or both of the doors, but this was still the shortest distance between two points when nights became anxious or difficult. Sometimes, I would be awake and walk into my son's room just to listen to the sound of his sleep: a powerful sound.
I haven't heard as much of that lately. Not because my son hasn't been sleeping. He sleeps like a champ. It's because he's doing his sleeping in what has been, up until very recently, our guest bedroom. At seventeen years old, he has found a need for closed doors.
I get it. When I was a senior in high school, I lived in my parents' basement, and I tended to appear primarily for mealtimes and other vital social functions. For the most part, I was found via a shout from the top of the stairs. I would generally respond, unless I had my headphones on or I was immersed in some extremely delicate maneuvers on the Atari 5200. If I was home.
When I was a senior in high school, I had a car, and it was my ticket to ride. I went to school, and afterward I used up as much of that dollar a gallon gas that I could, visiting friends and hanging out with my girlfriend. While I had firmly planted roots and always managed to find my way home, usually bringing as much of my tribe as I could, I still spread my wings as often as I could to escape what I felt had become walls closing in on top of me.
My son has a car. The other night he told me he just wanted to get out and drive. It felt more than a little like the beginning of a Bruce Springsteen song than any interaction I am used to with him. "I gotta get out of here," he told me. Going to the back of the house and closing the door wasn't good enough for this one. This one required leaving the premises.
I'm the dummy who bought him the car in the first place. If it really bothered me or I thought he was going to get into trouble, I could have told him "No." I didn't have to. Mostly because he was telling me that he was leaving and he didn't rush out and slam the door behind him. There was no squealing of tires or blaring stereo. He wanted to be away. I got that. I gave that to him. For all of the slammed doors and squealed tires in my youth, I would have deserved a little payback.
When he came back, we talked. Not a lot. A little. His mother and I made sure that whatever had driven him away had calmed, for now. He's a good kid. He loves his parents and his home. It just requires a little more distance now than it used to.