The Last Summer
August 8, 2014 11:51 AM   Subscribe

Touching stuff, but really the kid is already doing as he pleases and the only thing that is going to change is the size of the bill for his education.
posted by Renoroc at 11:55 AM on August 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

I slightly misread the first paragraph and spent most of the article thinking he was going to reveal that his son predeceased him, and that this would have been his 18th summer. I thought he was sketching out what he envisioned for his son, but for the lack.
First time in a while I've been happy to be wrong.
Nice story, thanks.
posted by staccato signals of constant information at 12:07 PM on August 8, 2014

Favoriting it to read again in 12 years or so.
posted by hat_eater at 12:19 PM on August 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

I have been running into teenage friendships sympathetically (and realistically!) narrated by adult onlookers in fiction recently, and I have been surprised to find how clear those memories are for all of us. Teenagers smoking and drinking beer in the backyard and talking to each other all night is vital and important, and I'm impressed that so many authors remember that desperate necessity.
posted by BaffledWaffle at 12:22 PM on August 8, 2014 [5 favorites]

"Yes, salon, although they would certainly dismiss the word as the product of yet another pretentious adult."

I see what you did there, Slate.
posted by turaho at 12:32 PM on August 8, 2014 [9 favorites]

I'm currently grappling with a very crafty, high-energy, and obstinate 3 year old and needed to read this - thanks.
posted by ryanshepard at 12:51 PM on August 8, 2014

If you like this you might like the film Boyhood.
posted by beau jackson at 1:10 PM on August 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

He should give Rob Lowe a call.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:29 PM on August 8, 2014 [3 favorites]

On the heels of that short-leash-parenting thread this is a breath of fresh air. Mostly, though, it makes me nostalgic for a freedom I never actually had -- there's probably a word for that.
posted by en forme de poire at 2:01 PM on August 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

This is a good dad.
posted by lauranesson at 2:08 PM on August 8, 2014 [3 favorites]

This is awesome. I'm going through a similar phase with Boy, in that he is on the cusp of teenager, and I'm pretty sure this the last year when he's gonna want to hang out with me at museums and horse trails...and can be bribed with brownies. next summer will be friends and girls and we parents will have become stupid old people who keep them from doing things that invincible persons want to do, but shouldn't. Good to know the constant parade of not-my-children doesn't me time to stock up on food for the endless hunger that is teenage boys.
posted by dejah420 at 2:17 PM on August 8, 2014

It's a bit weird getting a glimpse at the (to my mind mostly Anglo-American) narrative of the 18th birthday marking a massive shift in the relationship between a parent and their children. In the households of the vast majority of my friends and family in Miami turning 18 and going to college did nothing to stop the things he mentions. Heck while I'm (finally) my own adult in my parents eyes that has more to do with the fact that I live 300 miles away and have my own family than with my age.
posted by oddman at 2:43 PM on August 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

What a truly beautiful first-world problem.
posted by riverlife at 3:45 PM on August 8, 2014

That hit home. We leave Wednesday on the 1000 mile drive to drop our daughter off at college for her freshman year. We have a 20 year old son, but since he is living at home and attending college locally, nothing really has changed with him.

My daughter is very ready to get out in the world, I'll be surprised if we ever see her living at home full time again. And I'm ok with that. We raised to two kids to 18 with no convictions (or arrests!), no grandchildren, and both have very promising futures ahead of them. Parenting achievement unlocked!

Now we have to figure out what to do with the rest of our lives.
posted by COD at 5:31 PM on August 8, 2014 [4 favorites]

I kind of got screwed out of "that" summer. We lived overseas when I graduated, and left on the first plane after graduation as my dad's company had lost the contract and he really had no job, although the company had been decent enough to keep him on for a couple of months so that I could graduate. "That" summer for me was spent bored out of my mind at my grandmothers house, where we were camped while my dad looked for a job in the states.
posted by COD at 5:35 PM on August 8, 2014

I felt this way last summer, before my son started college. But he came back and has spent this summer much as he did the last one. Nothing has really changed, and I mean that in the best way.
posted by Biblio at 5:36 PM on August 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

My son turned 18 about a month ago, getting ready to be a Senior in High School. We held him back for another round of kindergarden, all for the best as he hadn't been socialized much. We didn't day-care him, Grandma moved down here and I never worked full-time so he'd be cared for by someone who loved him.

He has spent his entire life in one house, a bit too small but the same always. I'd lived in four states by fifth grade, was always the new kid, always the smallest in the grade level until middle school. I'd had over 300 fights by the time I was out of High School. Joe has never had one.

We hypothesized on the deepest level of id-anger-and-loss about what would've been if we'd grown up in a stable household. Janet hadn't had multiple states, but had been through multiple towns as a kid. It turns out we were right. Joe is just solid; level-headed, well-adjusted, friends he's had since they were in diapers together. A section leader in marching band with a 4.+ gpa. A red-headed rock star bassist with a smokin-hot girlfriend.

After all this time, I now know that I had a deep hope that going through those experiences would make up for what I saw as losses, that were losses, of friends, homes, continuity. That was what drove the need, that I put in three times the fathering time to offset the crap factor of making it up as I went along. I know what I gained through those experiences, the instantaneous synchronizing of accent and cadence and attitude that quickly brings a comfort level with people of different backgrounds and cultures. But I've lived in this house for twenty years and I still believe, at a gut level, it could be gone tomorrow. Raising him like this helped me, no doubt, but it didn't fix me.

Now he's pretty much living with his girlfriend, he was here one night in the last month. I don't blame him, if I were he I'd rather be spending the time with her than me. But there was no notice. He turned into an adult and he just start acting like one. Three pounds of chicken went bad from having no one to make the soup for. Twice.

Now I've got all this, this time, to do those things that I'd sacrificed, that I left smoking in the ditch behind me when they interfered with the prime priorities. It's different, I'm older than I was when the projects came to mind, and that makes a difference. I feel the changes, like petals falling off a lotus, the shift in perspective that brings what was unthinkable into the sharp realm of possible and probable. I'm more uncertain of myself going forward than I am for him. Him, I'm not worried about.

Ah, well. His band practises here on Saturday. I think I'll make soup.
posted by dragonsi55 at 5:39 PM on August 8, 2014 [10 favorites]

Enjoying the kid’s company I understand. Some poignant thoughts about growth and change, OK. But the weird fetishizing of "the last summer” seems odd. There are many milestones and changes on the road from birth to independence, but kids don’t leave your life the day they go off to college, and this is not really a sharper break than many others along the road.

I say this as someone who has one son who went to college a thousand miles from home and who, now a graduate, just moved to the other side of the planet for an indefinite period, and another who is off to college 3000 miles away in another country next month (the one in the middle is still physically present though, at least for now).
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 12:01 AM on August 9, 2014

I thought there was a sharp break. When I came back home after I'd started college, I didn't feel like I quite belonged there. I didn't feel like I belonged anywhere, in fact. It was disconcerting--my first little taste of the alienation that is a common feature of grown-up life.
posted by persona au gratin at 1:05 AM on August 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'll do a little reminisce, since it's relevant. "That" summer for me was working at a science camp, teaching kids about entomology. We got drunk at night around fires, talked about science, and taught during the day. I fell in love with insects, in particular, ants, and started working in a lab when I started college. That summer did mark a massive transition - before, I was a somewhat angry mostly OK directionless kid, and after I was an ant biologist; today I'm doing a phd studying ants. All of this stuff about ants and evolutionary biology is just a part of my worldview now, but it's incredible to remember that summer learning it for the first time and the world opening up.
posted by Buckt at 8:55 AM on August 9, 2014

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