I think we've hit the parts of parenting that neither of us was prepared for; we had the kids with the intent to raise them into self reliant adults, and hoped that along the way we could instill values in them that would become part of who they are, and for the most part I think we've accomplished that. Make no mistake, we have three teenagers in the house (yes, I know, Kevin is not yet 13 but he might as well be; he has the eye rolling part down pat) and there are days we go to bed as exhausted as we did when they were toddlers. For the most part, they amuse us, even at their teen-worst (I suppose that's because their worst isn't all that bad, not compared to a lot of kids we know) but there are days...
They're reaching towards problems that are pushing into adult territory, and we don't always know what to do about it. Alex, especially. He's 16 going on 30, he's in a relationship that's grown closer than I would like (read into that what you will, and you'll probably be right) and he's as serious and committed to it as he can possibly be at this age; he's also trying to figure out a way to break his own heart without breaking his girlfriend's.
He doesn't want to break up with her, but it occurred to him recently that he may effectively be doing that at the end of next summer. The realization hit him as he was pouring over information on a few potential colleges he's considering for when he's done at the community college. He's wrestling with what to do, stay here and go to school locally, which might not be in his best long term interest, or go away to school and risk distance being something that comes between them.
His realization has lead to many evenings spent sitting by the pool, in the cold, while he contemplates what he's going to do. It's almost as hard on us because we can't really tell him what to do; we can point out some obvious things, like email and texting and cell phones, and the fact that going away to school doesn't mean staying away for good. There are holidays and weekends, and unless he winds up overseas somehow he can always come home when he feels the need. We can also bite our tongues and avoid telling him that some distance might do them both some good; they're too young to be living life as if they're going to be together forever, and it might give them both some perspective.
I also can't tell him that most of me wants him to stay home and go to school here. I'm not ready to send my son out into the world and I don't imagine that I will be in 9 months. He won't be quite 17 when the next school year begins. When he was born my idea of being his mother had him here with us until he was 22 and graduating from college.
He relies more on his father when it comes to talking this out, which is good because I'm not sure I can avoid telling him how badly I want him to stay home. Ian is capable of helping him weight the pros and cons and making sure that the primary consideration is Alex's entire future, not his mother's feelings, and not his girlfriend's.
But still, he knows that if he chooses to leave, even if he can find a way to do it and not hurt Stephanie, he'll be breaking his own heart by going. And the collateral from that just isn't something I was ever prepared to have to deal with.
My dad let me leave at 18; he sent me clear across the country, and I had no idea how hard that was for him, not until I started thinking about Alex leaving. My dad let me go because it really was the best for me. I know that if Alex chooses a school out of state that it will be because it's the best for him, but I don't have to like it. And I suppose he doesn't have to, either.