There was a time when I could not have imagined this: My son has gone off for a week in Hawaii. He's with a friend, and he's staying with his uncle, but there is an ocean between him and his home. It used to be that any trip over a couple miles would require some sort of parental chaperone. Sleepovers were out of the question. His mother and I contented ourselves the very real prospect that he would eventually attend the University of California in Berkeley because, in his words, he "could still sleep at home."
Now he's all grown up and calling to ask us if we could possibly send along a little more money, oh and how are you by the way? Then he's gone again. Off to dig a hole or fight a dragon or whatever it is that teenaged boys do on a tropical island. Back on the mainland, my wife and I exchange puzzled looks and ask each other if we miss him. Of course we do, but at the same time we are tremendously proud of the way he has managed to get himself up off the couch and out into the world. That very same couch upon which my wife and I exchanged those puzzled looks.
For a while, I blamed genetics for making my son such a homebody. My favorite place was always at home with my family when I was a kid, and I took a good deal of grief from my friends and brothers about it. I was never able to fully deal with my homesickness until my second shot at going away to college. The first ended with me pulling a tour of duty at Arby's. That was my father's line in the sand. If I wasn't going away to school, I would have to get a job instead of just hanging around the basement waiting for my girlfriend to finish up her day at high school.
No such roast beef therapy was required of my son. Maybe he heard the stories enough that he got the message early on, or perhaps he just went and grew up on us. I've heard of this happening. This past New Year's Eve he packed up and went off to a friend's lake house, a place he had never been before. It sounded like fun. There we were, my wife and I, sitting on that puzzled-look-couch. All that talk about late bloomers turned out to be somehow connected to his reality.
Now we have to figure out how we're going to deal with having him gone. I hope we're up to it.