|Our family made royal with Christmas cracker crowns|
Two of his cousins are roughly a year older. We benefit greatly as parents by having them preview coming stages; we're grateful to our siblings for that. Our niece and nephew are fun and interesting kids, but still, when I get to observe them right now, I get scared. They're not rebellious or disrespectful. (Perhaps their parents will disagree in the comments). On recent visits, though, they've made themselves so absent from the family. That's what scares me.
At a family reunion last fall, I would wonder where Riley was when the adults and younger cousins clustered together. Nearly always, she was in a corner of the basement with headphones in. My parents report that she was napping through much of their Christmas visit, awakening only to play Ticket to Ride. She so dominates every game of Ticket to Ride, actually, that one time they let her sleep through a game so someone else could win.
On our beach vacation last summer, Trevor slept in very impressively. He committed to a long morning in a way that required poking him with a stick around 11:30 just, you know, to make sure.... I saw the same thing happen for several years with our only child neighbor boy across the street. We have summer happy hours, and when they first started, he would come with his parents. Bit by bit, he would come with them and leave early, or he would "be coming over in a minute" when they arrived. Eventually, he just didn't come.
I don't fault these young people, and I'll try not to fault Charlie when and if he follows in their footsteps. I remember it. In growing up, we can feel awfully different from how we felt just a short time before. We can feel awfully different from those around us; no longer quite so keen to hang out with smaller kids but also nowhere near at home among adults either. We need space to figure ourselves out on our own. While I'll try not to fault Charlie, that can't change the fact that I'll grieve his absence. In addition to loving the boy, I really like him, and I like his contributions to groups and events. I'm going to miss him.
In the end, the adolescent's eventual launch likely explains the hermit hours. In order to flee the nest, he must create a little space within it that he gets to occupy by himself. Although I might wish for myself that Charlie will go on relating to us the exact same way, I have no right to wish that for his sake.
I always tell parents of younger children that each phase of parenting has become my favorite phase. The teenage years likely break that pattern, and they're bearing down on us like a freight train. I'm actively savoring Charlie's continued sweetness, relative innocence, affection and involvement. It feels tenuous and precarious, poised to vanish at any moment. I take some solace in believing that it won't vanish all at once but rather ebb away in fits and starts. But still, I expect and fear that we'll look up one day and register that these qualities have vanished altogether.
When envisioning that dark moment, I think again of the neighbor boy. Now absent for real, off at his freshman year of college on the west coast. It's true that he's gone, but I saw something wonderful happen before he left. He came back. In his final summer at home after high school, he brought his polite and interesting high school girlfriend to happy hour on the street. They engaged in conversation with people years and decades older than themselves on a different footing than before he'd disappeared from our community life as a young teen. Young adults in the true sense of the phrase. I wish Charlie the child didn't have to start disappearing - literally - from the scene, but that may be the only honest path. That will allow him to come back and then, both sadly and happily, to truly leave.