“We’re bowling tonight with Aunt Jana, she’s in town with cousin Eric for the weekend,” muttered the 15-year-old young man. “I really enjoy bowling, this should be fun.”
Hearing the excitement in his voice about rolling the ol’ ball down the alley took me back to a wonderful memory of college. I was competing in a “Superstars” athletic competition at the University of Missouri. One of the ten contests was bowling. I had an “out of body” experience during that event. It seemed like every pin dropped, even if the ball wasn’t in the same time zone. My final tally was in the high 200’s, about 100 points higher than any previous best.
“Ah, Dad, come on, that didn’t happen,” retorted the smart guy who lives 1,500 miles from his father. “Yes, it did,” I responded. “I’m serious!”
Then we got serious, about this young man’s future. Specifically, should he stay in Malibu where he’s lived the past four years with his Mom and Step Dad, or return home to Denver, where he spent the first 11 years of his life.
“Dad, if I can’t go to the Denver School of the Arts, I want to stay here,” he announced in a clear and confident voice. “I don’t want to come back to Denver, spend a year at East High School, then try and transfer into DSA, I’d rather stay here.”
In Malibu, this creative teenager is active in theatre and film and is really enjoying a film class he’s currently taking at Malibu High School. In fact, the class has sparked a dream to study film and directing at New York University, one of the nation’s top schools in that discipline.
This enthusiastic sports fan has a good life in Malibu, he also has a good life in Denver. Each home is loving and supportive. But there’s no way to clone him, and we’ve been struggling with deciding which place is best for a 15-year-old boy. There is no easy answer.
This much I do know. The conviction is his voice told me where his truth lies and I respect him for having the courage to speak it.
That could not have been easy for a child who might feel he’s letting one, or the other, parent down by deciding where he wants to live. But all along, we, his parents, have tried to communicate to him, the heart-tugging decision would be based upon what’s in the best interests of Kyle, not either parent’s individual desires.
One of the things so difficult when trying to parent and mentor from long distance is the gnawing feeling you’re on the outside looking in at a life in progression. I miss the day-to-day interaction especially at this age of adolescence when, most often, mono-syllabic grunts are considered, “conversation.”
You wonder, what kind of parent am I? Am I making a difference in helping this young man grow into a responsible adult? Insecurities creep in occasionally, and make you wonder. Especially when you don’t see your children on a daily basis.
Despite this long-distance relationship, I choose to believe you can still make a difference. One thing Kyle’s trio of parents, Mom, Dad and Step Dad has always stressed: You must speak your truth.
I heard that truth in the tone and conviction in which he spoke of a desire to remain in California; I didn’t really like it. I miss him, so does his half sister.
But this bundle of emerging talent and testosterone did not create this two-home, multi-state existence. His parents are responsible for that challenging facet of life.
And now, here he resides, on the cusp on manhood, clearly expressing what he believes. While the “K-Man” chases his dreams, the Golden State is the desired operations base.
It’s a decision that doesn’t surprise his ol’ man, but stings nonetheless. A soothing balm is the realization that perhaps this young man’s personal experience has solidified a critical value within his bones and marrow: you have to speak up for yourself and verbalize what’s truly in your heart.
You can’t be what others want you to be. You have to be authentic; first and foremost, to yourself. That’s a reminder for all of us, of any age, gender or circumstance.
If this agonizing process has embedded that belief inside my son, the “long-distance Dad deal” is a price worth paying. The alternative, not having the courage to speak the truth usually, down the road, creates enormous costs physically, emotionally and financially.
What parent in their right mind would ever wish that on their child?