The Right Passage

By Gregory Keer

Dear Benjamin,

A lot of parents reach the teen milestone with their children and wonder, “Where did all the years go?” Some moms and dads even take to humming the words to “Sunrise, Sunset.”

Rather than get all maudlin (just yet), I’d like you to know I’m not surprised that you’re 13. I have a billion pictures, dozens of columns, and countless parenting battle scars to mark your steps toward this passage into teendom.

As I consider what the next seven years will look like, I do have small fears of having to purchase sides of beef to feed you and visions of Rebel Without a Cause scenes being played out at home. However, aside from an inconsistency in doing chores and a sense of humor that too often includes the imitation of hungry turtles and using my bald spot as the butt of jokes, I think you’re pretty fantastic.

It’s important to note that your thirteen-year-old awesomeness has not come easily. During the last four months alone, you’ve undergone a dazzling array of adolescent challenges. In the midst of a growth spurt that has forced your mother to look up at you sooner than she’d hoped and has cost a fortune in replacement shoes, you’ve been lucky to walk straight on coltish legs, let alone run. But run you did, down a wet grassy hill, then slipped, landed, and snapped your upper arm. In shock and pain, you suffered through my callous disbelief that you did anything but dislocate the bone, another of your three ER visits, excruciating muscle spasms, a lost basketball season, a resetting of the arm, and a mending process that took triple the time anyone expected.

Along with all that, your mouth decided to compete with your arm for anatomical mayhem. Your orthodontist took a look at the area he had just five months before called a territory of peace and declared war on it. Braces needed to be fitted on the lower range, neck gear was prescribed, and four wisdom teeth required extraction to prevent something akin to geopolitical disaster from occurring. If it was me going through simultaneous skeletal rehab and oral surgery, I would want to crawl into a hole. But you handled everything with few complaints.

This went on in addition to the regular pre-teen pressures of stressful academics and raging hormones. You really stepped up your game in school, though not without some grumpiness and the panic of some misplaced papers. You’ve come a long way from kindergarten class where you learned numbers in between giggle attacks to the rigors of middle school algebra and world history. And even though I drive you crazy about homework management, I hope you realize how impressed I am that you can explain the science behind my back pain.

You’ve gotten through a lot of this compressed chaos with the help of your great passion — books. It’s hard to imagine you are the same little boy who struggled in first grade to puzzle out a sentence. Back then, your mom and I had to be restrained by your teacher from hiring a legion of educational therapists. Now, we actually resort to cutting off your library privileges and Amazon account if we want to give you consequences for your infrequent behavioral slip-ups.

On the occasion of this significant passage, we are not only proud of your hard work and fortitude. We stand in wonder at your giving nature, which has propelled you to mount a campaign against the exploitation of laborers in the Congo and to improve the reading skills of those less fortunate than you. Although I’d like to pat myself on the back for your many good interpersonal qualities, I am humbled by your abilities to be such a loyal and big-hearted friend and family member.

Benjamin, when I look at you, I see all that you have been and are today. I see the baby of the fat thighs and belly laugh. I see the little boy of the backwards hats and karate chops. I see the big kid of the cell phone appendage and still cuddly habits. You will always make me proud just by being you. As you enter your teenage years, though, you do yourself honor by your diverse and meaningful actions.



Posted in Child Development, Columns by Family Man, Teens | Leave a comment