Steiner the minor called me this afternoon to share big news with me.
“Dad, I got in. I am going to start taking classes next semester.”
It is too bad he couldn’t have seen me smile because the grin on my face would have made that old Cheshire cat feel like a fake and a phony.
“I am so very proud of you, all the hard work is worth it. Good things happen when you put your mind to it, this is just one of many big accomplishments in your life.”
“Thank you, I wanted to tell you in person but I didn’t know when you would be coming back.”
I told him it was ok, and he took a moment confirm he was on Bluetooth. When I said I was he asked me how many miles I had put in and I said it would be around 400 or so today.
“You should be proud of yourself, I can guarantee your family is.”
“I am proud of myself.”
And with those five words I was transported back in time, the high schooler shrank four feet and 13 years.
Giving It The Old College Try
I remember encouraging the baby who figured out how to stand to keep going. I remember how he would cruise around the house and how one day he was so engrossed in walking and learning about the world he forgot he wasn’t holding onto anything.
“Go little Jack! You can do it, walk to me.”
We held out our arms and though he didn’t make it the whole way standing it didn’t take long for him to figure it out.
Hell, once he stopped crawling and went vertical it took no time to move from a couple of steps at a time to a sprint from one place to another.
“Be proud of yourself! You worked hard for it.”
The baby toddler and boy heard that more than a few times because there was reason for him and for us to be proud.
And as he grew bigger and older he also heard us tell him that you didn’t get to be proud for nothing, you had to work for it and you had to earn it.
It wasn’t until he was having a hard time in middle school that there was a reason for me to let him in on the secret that your parents are always proud of you, some times more than others.
Somewhere during those years I think he heard me describe putting an effort into doing something as “Giving it the old college try” but I never realized just how soon that would refer to him going to college.
High School & The College Experience
I don’t know how long it took for the smile to disappear from my face. Can’t say whether it was a minute or an hour after his call.
What I do know is I replayed his words about having gotten into the program over in my head and thought about what it meant.
He is halfway through his freshman year of high school but in a very short time his freshman workload will include a couple of college classes.
When he started at the school I knew this program existed and that some of the students graduate high school with enough college credits to enter as sophomores and juniors but I don’t know that I really imagined he might be one of them.
And then I started thinking hard about what I want him to get out of high school and college. I started thinking about the experiences that he might have and the opportunities that could come from both and tried to figure out if this program helps or hinders it.
It’s A Good Thing
The bottom line is getting into the program is a good thing, at least as I understand it.
Ask me why I am concerned about an honors student being recognized for their hard work and being given additional opportunities to excel and I’ll tell you that I want there to be some kind of balance here.
What that means is I don’t want him to be so overloaded with work he doesn’t have time to be a kid and do other things.
The Cross Country team has been a great experience for him. He loves it and as long as he does I want him to continue.
Not just because I think there are valuable lessons that come with being part of a team but because running is a sport you can do your whole life.
You don’t need a ball or other people to do it.
It is a way to exercise and stay in shape. It is a way to disconnect from the electronic bubble that so many of us live in and to get outside and feel the sun on your/our backs.
I want him to have time to hang out with friends and do the kind of stuff you, I, we did in high school. It shouldn’t be all work and no fun.
But if I understand the way this program works it doesn’t have to be crazy/busy burden time. It can be something that helps foster his love of learning and challenges him.
And if for some reason it doesn’t work, well we can always dial things back.
I am so very proud and so excited for him.
The news today reminded me again how fast the clock moves and how brief a moment our children live with us.
Sometimes it feels like forever and then sometimes things happen that remind you how quickly time is compressed into then and now.
The toddler is long gone and so is the little boy. Now the teen stands before us.
There is still time before he heads off into the world on his own, long enough to be noticeable but short enough to be recognized.
I’ll take whatever time we have and give it the old college try to be present and enjoy it, but damn, that sun in the sky above moves far too quickly.