My oldest son requested an audience with me the other night. I call it an audience because he went to great lengths to make it a private conversation, politely asking his brother to leave the room (he even said please). At first, I thought it was just another ploy to push back bedtime. He has been known to try that in the past.
But this was a serious talk — man to man (even if one of the “men” is just 8 years old and the other acts like he’s 12 at times). He had thought about what he was going to say, he didn’t beat around the bush, just looked me in the eye and asked his question.
“Dad, when do you think I can get a pocket knife?”
It’s one of those questions that, as a Dad, makes you scared and proud, all at the same time. As I’ve mentioned before, Chris has Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) and I know there are times when I probably “baby him” more than I would if he didn’t have SPD.
He knows it too.
While we were in St. Augustine last weekend we had another talk, man to man, on the trolley. I had made his 6-year old brother sit in the middle of the seat, away from the edge of the trolley. I started to make Chris move and then decided as long as I was siting next to him he’d be fine to sit on the edge.
I think both of us recognized it as a moment of growth for me. A couple minutes later he said, again very thoughtfully and politely, “Dad you don’t need to baby me you know. I’m a big boy.” After a little hug I asked him why he thought sometimes I “babied him” and his response was perfect! “Because you love me and want to keep me safe!”
Maybe I am doing something right after all.
Jump back to the pocket knife conversation. I told him I thought I had gotten my first knife when I was about 10 and so we’d shoot for that same age with him. But, I promised, on our next camping trip I’d be sure to teach him proper knife safety and let him practice with one of mine. And we’d keep doing that till I felt he was ready to have a knife of his own.
When that happens, I’m not sure which Chris is going to be happier. It will be a rite of passage for both of us — him into young manhood and me into a father who has managed to find the balance between wanting to keep my little boy safe and letting him grow up.
It’s proof that you never stop growing!