The son: "I have to prove..."
Me: "You don't have to prove anything to anyone. You are who you are."
The son: "But the teachers. I have to prove that I'm good..."
Me: "Kid, the teachers already know. You're in the same school system. The admissions people knew who you were before I knew who they were."
He is silent for a moment, lying on his bed in the darkened room. It's been a difficult evening. I've had to give him the "we can do this the easy way or we can do this the hard way" talk again.
The son: "But..."
I'm scared, I finish silently in my head. I know he is. He has completed eight days of high school and doesn't have his footing yet.
Me: "You have a proven formula. You show up, you do your work, you take your tests, you behave in your polite, respectful and fun way, and everything else will fall into line."
The son: "I want to be like you."
Me: "You don't want to make the mistakes I have."
But he isn't thinking about the errors of my ways; he is thinking about stories of journalistic scoops, varsity letters in sports, a job at a TV station, the girl who blew up stuff in lab, all the stories he's heard.
The son: "No, but I want to do all the things you've done, the things you do."
Me, thinking about what I was doing a year ago this night, and smiling in the dark: "Don't worry. I'm doing a more than adequate job of living my life. You'll find your own interesting life to live."
The best I can hope for is that he'll learn from his own errors, without repeating mine. The best I can do is guide him a little, just an unobtrusive little nudge here and there, with kindness and care, and not leave him as I was left, unguided, to navigate the slings and arrows of outrageous adolescence alone.
You wrote yourself into a corner, safe
Easy to defend your borders
Go listen to some good music: "Unguided" from the album Live from Soho by The New P***ographers.