I discovered last week that I fit quite comfortably in my mother’s shoes.
As I sat across the table from my oldest son, I listened as he excitedly described his after high school plans to his counselor and me. With great anticipation in his voice and manner my eldest described how he was weighing his options on which town to live in, what jobs to pursue and a fairly detailed explanation of how he would pay his bills.
His entire demeanor enthusiastically cried a familiar teenage theme — freedom finally.
I remember experiencing those same feelings, in what seems to me, to not be that long ago. Twenty-some years later I now find myself in an odd situation. While fully relating and enchanted by my eldest’s youthful enthusiasm, a gripping fear encircles my heart and mind — and I now know exactly how my mother must have felt.
Similar to watching a firefly, one can’t help but become a bit entranced by the youthful vigor of a teenager ready to take flight. Youth is full of energy, hope and countless possibilities. It also often lacks a reasoned dose of fear, wisdom and patience.
And although I find the youthful energy exuded by my eldest charming and a bit captivating — a myriad of worrisome questions inch their way around me.
Does my oldest son know whites go with whites, colors with colors, towels with towels? Does he fully understand that household goods, like Charmin, Bounce and Bounty won’t magically restock themselves in the cupboards? Nor will cans of soup, boxes of macaroni and cheese or packets of Ramen noodles.
Will he remember to open doors for ladies, regardless of their feelings on feministic ideals? Will he pay his own way, pick up the tab more times than not and stay true to his word?
Will my eldest remember, “Do good, sin not and let your conscience be your guide”? Will he remember his roots and understand the value of where and by whom he comes from?
Will he understand that along with the successes and mountaintops, failures and disappointments await as well? Does he know that it isn’t how hard or how high he falls, but that by grace he is able to get himself back up on his feet? Does he know taking an outreached hand of help isn’t a sign of weakness, but of aged-grown humility?
Will he understand that those he trusts and love can be fleeting — here today and gone tomorrow? Does he know that he alone defines his future? It isn’t the past but tomorrow that matters; to learn from yesterday and move forward despite his own blunders, mishaps and complete, utter foolishness and those of others.
Does he know the four most important words in the English language? “I can’t afford it.”
It isn’t what you own, but the choices you make that define your sense of self. You don’t own the stuff you buy, as much as it owns you.
You will win some. You will lose. And by God’s grace you will learn from both. Sometimes you’ll be right, and other times completely wrong. But in all situations, grace and mercy can abound. And to remember: Grace is getting something you don’t deserve while mercy is not getting something you do.
And despite all the teenage angst embodied in one’s soul there are those who love you regardless of your bank account, popularity, mistakes or successes. Identify those people and cling to them — their words, teachings and spirit — for the rest of your life.
Published Oct. 9, 2013