I need to be very careful now. Anything I say could be used as justification by my son to run off and join the Army. Or Navy. Or Marines. Or maybe he'll jump to the big leagues and get married. He can do that now. He's eighteen.
He doesn't need my permission to go see a movie. He doesn't need me to open a bank account for him. He is his own man. These are the eyes of the state I am using currently. If I turn my old parent eyes on this young man, I see a guy who could, in a pinch, do any of those things. But I don't think he will. There are far too many other things that he is interested in doing, being and seeing before he enlists in any of those more mundane activities. Sure, if he joined the armed services, he could travel the world and seek out new people and experiences while carrying weapons he has only seen on video games, but that isn't where he is headed.
I don't actually know that. It may be precisely where he is headed, but not right now. He doesn't know for sure what he is going to do. That is the magic of being this magic age is that he can make all kinds of adult-ish choices, but he doesn't have to. We are his safety net for a few more years while he makes his way in the world. His mother and I will pretend for the time being that he is going off to slay his metaphorical dragons while we stick close to the phone and monitor Al Gore's Internet for any actual dragon sightings so as to make certain that his path is clear.
Whatever path that is. It's another jumping-off point. It becomes more and more clear to me with each passing year that this parenting gig isn't a short-term one. It's a lifetime. I think of the words from the Alice Cooper song: "I got a baby's brain and an old man's heart/Took eighteen years to get this far/Don't always know what I'm talkin' about/Feels like I'm livin' in the middle of doubt." I wonder how Alice's parents felt about that, but he was twenty-two when he wrote it, so I'm not sure if that counts.
Of course it counts. This is my son, and when he turns twenty-two, I will be just as interested about what is going on in his life as I am now. I find him fascinating. His story is full of pending twists and turns, and I want to have a ringside seat for all of them. And hopefully I will be a spectator. A very pleased and proud spectator. I give him my consent to rise to the heights he chooses. Bon voyage!