Friday, June 07, 2013

Peek at the future

From today's Briefing:

One of the many perks of long-lasting relationships is knowing and befriending the children of your childhood friends.
We spent last weekend in Houston at the home of one of my best friends. Jayshree and I met when we were 13, and though we haven’t lived in the same town since we graduated high school, we’ve continued to endure challenges and celebrate joys together.
She and her husband have a 16-year-old son, Devan, who is the perfect combination of the two of them — funny, smart, kind, social, outspoken.
A bonus of hanging out with my longtime friend and her teenage son: a sneak preview of parenting teenagers. They are five years ahead of us, and I appreciate the peek into our own future, even while wanting time to slow down.
When we arrived Friday night, Devan wasn’t home, and a car was missing from the garage. He was out with friends, though no one was really sure where. Jayshree and Sanjay weren’t worried. He’s earned their trust.
Devan eventually came home and told us about dinner and a movie with friends. As he spoke, I imagined my own son with a set of car keys and the freedom to roam. Cooper behind the wheel is a frightening image.
But my son is 11. He’s been granted freedoms appropriate for his age, like riding his bike solo and watching some (not all) PG-13 movies. He’s proven that he’s responsible enough for those freedoms. He obeys bike laws. He can handle limited, mature content — and will ask questions if there’s something he doesn’t understand.
And when Cooper falters — like the day I saw him cross the street on his bike without looking both ways — his freedoms are reined in a little. There will be plenty of two steps forward, one step back moments before we reach the driving years. By the time he’s 16, I’m hoping to be comfortable with (or at least not terrified by) my firstborn navigating the mean streets of Frisco.
After everyone else is asleep at the Houston house, Jayshree and I always stay up late to visit. Conversation invariably turns to the past (dramatic high school memories, where-are-they-now updates) and parenting.
Long gone are the days of car seats and timeouts. On this visit, we talked about the balance between high expectations for your child and letting your child make his own decisions.
Is it appropriate to punish your child for a grade below potential? Or is the low grade itself enough of a consequence?
We talked about the difference between offering opportunities and forcing participation. We lamented overbearing, helicopter parents while acknowledging some of the same traits in ourselves.
And we talked about college. Devan is just two years from high school graduation — a fact I find hard to believe even with all the evidence before me. This summer, between basketball camps and volunteer work, he’ll study for the PSAT (something his mom and I did together). Campus visits aren’t far behind.
We discussed the increasingly competitive admissions process of big schools, plus lesser-known colleges that offer a more personal experience. We debated the power of a liberal arts degree, the futility of a business degree.
Leaving Houston was difficult, knowing that the next time I see Devan, he’ll have discarded more remnants of childhood. Next time, I’ll catch even more glimpses of the man he’s becoming, the kind of friend he’ll be for years to come.
Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. She can be reached at

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