Dickens’ words certainly resonated with me this year during June’s surge of graduations. My oldest son graduated with a BA from a prestigious private university destined for the city and the pursuit of his dreams, while my second son graduated from high school with no plans for the future other than a summer job.
Despite my never-ending emphasis on “life after high school can only be college, trade school or the military,” my younger son changed his story at the last minute. I keep the majority of anxiety from this to myself, while I tame the level of excitement I have for the older son. In all truth, it seems like the best and the worst. And then I stop.
I could have predicted this simply by the way they were when they were young. The first was busy, social, and clingy; the second was quiet, meticulous, and independent. These two boys were different from the start.
One image so vividly fixed in my mind is of my boys (8 and 4) dressed in light blue driving their battery-operated yellow Jeep out of the driveway. The older brother is tightly gripping the wheel with both hands and following a straight line to cautiously explore the neighborhood. The little one sits with his left arm relaxed on the driver’s headrest. He’s looking back at me grinning, while his right arm is rollercoastering the wind. It’s baffling how different they were even then.
Like Dickens’ tale, my anxiety associates their paths with the calm and the chaos and the age of wisdom and the age of foolishness; but that’s extreme and negative. And it’s total nonsense.
My Sons Could Not be More Different
The college graduate knows exactly what he wants. The high school grad doesn’t have a clue. They are both good boys who receive the same amount of love and support from me and my husband, but they are two different souls. I am trying to embrace their differences. How boring it would be, I tell myself, if they were exactly the same! Our job is to help them become independent, kind and confident young men, despite their paths and how they begin.
My oldest knew what he wanted to do at age 14. He’s a serious fellow who is hyper-focused, talented, and determined to make it in a difficult industry. His younger brother is a quiet, carefree, sweetheart who dabbles in music, technology, and philosophy. He plans of working until he discovers what it is he really wants to do.
Throughout high school, we discussed his many options. He applied and received college acceptances, pondered trade school, and accepted the structures and boundaries for a possible gap year, but I can’t deny my worry, nor my tears. I want him equipped with the armor of an education or a trade; and I secretly wish him to discover this for himself.
Plans tonight are for a small family party. I bought a graduation cake layered with colored frosting along with their favorite ice cream. I’m adding balloons, glitter, and some silly graduation gifts wrapped for laughs. We will celebrate. Neither son was a prom king or held the highest GPA, but both are kind, responsible, and still evolving young people. They both have humility, honor, and courage, which is the heart of Dickens’ tale.
They will both find their way – one conventionally, one not. And that just might be the best.
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Elizabeth Dardes is a mom of two adult sons and a daughter who’s a high school freshman. She lives with her husband, children, and adorable six-year-old Golden. She holds a Masters Degree and works part-time as a writing instructor and college test prep tutor at the local college. She receives text messages from her children on her work days asking her where she is.