The other day, we were driving home along the highway when our daughter noticed a toddler jumping around inside another car. We got talking about the silliness of not wearing seatbelts -- they don't hurt or constrict, so why not? Our eldest opined that once, just once, he'd like to climb into the back of a pick-up truck and drive around.
My husband, who knows teenagers well, looked in the rearview mirror at our invincible son and began a conversation about where and when this could and couldn't happen. Camp roads ok. Drunk driver not ok. Farm field ok, especially if en route to pick apples or some destination. Aimless joy riding, not ok.
To every caveat, our son made a reassuring but cleverly noncommittal sound: Mmm. I commented on this: that he had not agreed to anything but clearly had taken in what his dad was saying.
Last night, I brought the topic up again. In the last two weeks, I've heard of two young men dying, both of unexpected natural causes. I've seen photos and read stories posted by family and friends in their grief. In both instances, there are such good tales to tell -- silliness, joy, dressing up, and just so much life.
And that's what I said to my boy last night. I said, if I knew you were going to die at 24, and I had to choose, I would so rather that you lived fully and savoured life, than that you always had your homework done and were a fairly nice kid. I want you to live. On the other hand, I said, if I knew you were going to die of some foolhardy idiocy of your own making (or your friends'), I'd be so mad at you and myself.
It's a balancing act, I said to the teen, between being full-on, as my Aussie cousins say, and being stupid.
And sometimes, death is not on the table, but the balance must still be found. My boy had a vague idea about hanging out with his friends on the PD day, at a girl's house. When I expressed reservation about the idea -- for I was once a teen at a boy's house -- he could not believe his ears. I trust this kid deeply. He has such a good head on his shoulders and a good heart to boot. He's willing to do the unpopular thing and with flair, when needed. But he does still believe he's untouchable.
I told him he could go, but I asked him to watch to see whether I was right -- whether idle hands and all that. In the end, the plans fell apart altogether, and he and I played with the dog in the sandtraps on the golf course instead.
But here we go.