He said it with all of the earnestness and honesty an 8.5 year-old can muster, "I can't wait until I am a grown up." I smiled and said that he really could and reminded him that he needed to get his shoes on now.
He looked up at me and told me that he was moving as fast as he could. I smiled again and said that I knew, now get them on. It is the typical banter between the two of us. The two of us were in the living room of his friend's home, the end of a play date.
Just off to the side of us his friend's mother was in the middle of negotiating a truce between two of her children and trying to keep the baby from tearing off her diaper. It was clearly time to go, but the joy of being 8.5 is that those other things aren't important. In between fighting with his little brother the friend was trying to negotiate terms for my son to stay longer.
I was pleased to see that they had so much fun and had I the ability, I would have let him stay longer. But their family had things to do and so did we. So the decree was final, play time was over.
Safely ensconced inside the car he started in on me about why he couldn't wait to be a grown up and old enough to take care of himself. He didn't mean anything buy it and he didn't say anything that I had said when I was his age. But he managed to catch me at a bad moment, so I responded.
I asked him if he was ready to worry about paying for a mortgage and for school for kids. I asked him if he was ready to spend sleepless nights worrying about how to make it all work. And then he told me that it couldn't be that hard, that grown ups had money and answers.
For a moment I was thankful that he couldn't see my face because I was certain that if he could he'd know for certain how wrong that impression was. He doesn't need to know that I am not kidding about the sleepless nights or the moments of self doubt. He doesn't need to know that yesterday another friend called to tell me that he and his wife are splitting up and might it be possible for me to help watch his kids occasionally.
He doesn't need to know that the only thing I know for certain is that I really don't know anything. Yes, it is true, I am in the early to middle stages of a crisis. Stuff is going on all around me and I am not certain how to avoid getting smacked by the things flying through the air.
I keep on driving, my eyes on the road and softly explain that he needs to enjoy the time as a kid. There will be plenty of time to be a grown up. He may not see it now, but he'll spend the majority of his life on the other side of the kid wall. Funny, he keeps trying to climb over to my side and all I want to do is jump back on his.
Twenty years ago I spent endless summer nights on the beach with a girl who had dark hair, dark eyes, a nice tan and no desire in life other than to spend time with me. I had no responsibilities outside of myself.
But that was then and this is now.
He asked/told me that my life was better because no one tells me what to do. I laughed and reminded him that the grass is always greener. Sure, no one tells me what to do. I really can do almost anything I want, but there is one major problem with that.
He asked me what it was and I told him that it is called responsibility and conscience. He nodded his head and I could see that he understood the concept. "I get it dad, you mean that you do the right thing because when you don't you feel guilty."
"Yep, that is it," I said. But what was left unsaid was that you don't always know what the right thing to do is. Some situations are very clear and some are not. At the end of the day, we do our best to try and make good choices and that is it.