Aug 232010

Image by geishaboy500 via flickr

It’s a Saturday night, and I am in the process of firming up the fact that I am the best Dad ever.

You see, as opposed to sitting at home futzing around on my computer or even, perhaps, going out on the town I am sitting in the lounge of an indoor Parkour track that is located in Odessa, Florida. Have you not heard of Odessa, Florida? Yeah, neither have I, really. It’s pretty much in the middle of nowhere, about an hour from our house. There are no decent places to hang out anywhere near here, unless you consider McDonalds a “decent” place to hang out (and even that is about 10 minutes or so away). Why am I sitting in this lounge, you may ask? Because my son has recently been intensely interested in Parkour, and he really wanted to come up here and take the two hour class that they are offering.

So. Here I am.

I certainly do not begrudge him my time or the $10 I spent getting him into the class, but damn do I wish it was closer.

It was amusing to listen to the conversations of the instructors who are leading the class while we filled out the paperwork. References to Double Rainbows and things being “probably the most awesome thing…ever” abounded. These are, in a sense, “my” people. Well, at least as far as the internet culture is concerned. I do not leap about like a madman and talk proudly about the things I have broken. Yes, that was part of what I got to over hear as I filled out the paperwork. One guy broke his toe last night. Another, his nose. “Popping that back into place,” he bragged, “was probably the most manly thing I have ever done.”

And yet…here I sit…willingly participating in the fact that my son wishes to be involved in this insanity. You may think this makes me crazy. You may be right.

It reminds me of a conversation I had with Krystalle several months ago. Before this Parkour thing really took off Alex was into climbing trees. We have one in our back yard that is fairly conducive to climbing, and Krys and I were sitting on the back porch watching him do so. She was, understandably, nervous. So was I. As a parent it is very easy to fill your mind with countless number of horrible scenarios in which your child can come to harm on a normal day. Put them up in a tree and those scenarios suddenly seem much more realistic. She shook her head and looked at me, bewildered. “This is one of those areas where you and I do not see eye-to-eye,” she said. “Aren’t you afraid he’s going to hurt himself?”

“Yes,” I replied, “I am. But some point in his life the boy is going to fall and I won’t be there to catch him. I might as well get used to that fact now.”

She shook her head and dropped the subject, at least as far as trying to get me to see it from her point of view.

It is hard to know when it is time to start letting go of the control you have over your child. Hard to know when it’s time for them to get out from underneath you and start finding their own way in the world. Some would probably argue that I have started that process a bit too soon with Alex. I mean, he’s “only” fourteen and I am already telling him that if he wants to go places and I’m not available to drive him he needs to start learning where the bus routes go. The other day he took the bus downtown to hang out with some of his friends, but when I messaged him to find out when he was going to be home he replied that he had thought I was picking him up. He had not asked, so I did not drive down there. What I did, however, was send him a text letting him know where the next bus was that was able to get him home. This is not because I am lazy, or because driving to pick him up was any great inconvenience. This is because he needs to be responsible for his actions. If he’s going to go somewhere he needs to make sure he’s got transportation home. I would have gone to get him if he didn’t have bus money, of course. I mean, I’m not an asshole.

Well, most of the time anyway.

On the drive up here he was talking about how he could not wait until he had his own car. I am sure that he’s going to make me take him to get his learner’s permit as soon as I can after he turns fifteen. He has enough money tied up in Certificate Accounts that he should have about $1000 to drop on a car after he turns 16, so I’m also pretty confident that it won’t be long after he does so that he’ll have his own wheels. At that point I’ll have the whole new level of stress wondering if he’s texting while driving, wearing his seat belt, speeding, or driving late at night when all the drunks are on the road. If he is anything like my sister Kim was when she was living with me, I’ll suddenly start seeing a hell of a lot less of him. Unlike Kim, Alex will have his own cell phone and I’ll at least be able to text him to find out what he’s up to, but for the most part he’s going to be in “come and go as he pleases” mode as long as he keeps his grades up in school.

This is the way of things. This is how it should be. When Alex graduates from high school and is ready to move on to college I want him to be ready to face the world. I don’t want him to need me to make his decisions for me. I want him to call me for advice, sure, but I don’t want to be his crutch. He has to make his own way in the world, just like I did, and he won’t be able to do that if I’m the one making all the calls for him.

So I sit here, patiently typing away on my laptop that cannot pick up the free wi-fi that is supposedly available here in the gym. I try not to fret, and I remind myself not to pick on him too much for the number of times he face plants as he learns the moves. I also feel not small amount of pride as I look out there at the young man who so recently was my little boy.

I don’t want to toot my own horn too loudly, but I think he’s turned out pretty damn good.

I had a revelation today while I was driving home from my audition for the Stageworks theater production of War of the Worlds. If I am cast in this show it means that  everyone currently living in my household will be involved in the theater in some way during the Halloween season. Alex will be in school at the Pinellas County Center for the Arts majoring in Theatrical Performance, Krystalle will be stage managing Mindgame, and I would be in a show as well. That’s…pretty freakin’ cool, to be frank. For all I know Alex may actually be in a show at that point as well. Apparently my suspicions about the lack of available males to fill roles at PCCA were accurate. Freshmen boys reportedly find themselves cast in a great number of roles right out of the gate. This is fine as long as he is able to keep his grades up.

Grades will be especially important at Gibbs. Whatever happens, he must not end up being busted down to the “regular” classes. It was recently announced that the state of Florida has classified Gibbs as an “Intervention” school. What this means, for those of you who are not familiar with the school system here, is that Gibbs has been rated as a failing school for so long that the state is stepping in to see if the can fix the situation. In order to graduate from high school students have to pass a test known as the Florida Comprehensive Academic Test (FCAT). Of the 1700 students who took the test at Gibbs last year, 1200 of them failed the test.

The students in the program that Alex is part of, however, tend to make up the majority of the students who do not fail these tests. They are in Honors and AP classes. They end up with scholarships and getting accepted into awesome colleges. From the very first meeting we had at the school they emphasized the importance of being in the Honors classes simply to avoid being “brought down” by the general population of the school. “If you want to make A’s and B’s,” they say, “you need to make sure you’re only friends with students who make those kind of grades.”

So, yet again, I find myself in one of those situations where Alex is going into a somewhat “risky” environment that I have to suck it up and pretty much just hope things turn out for the best. Hell, I shouldn’t even use the quotes around the word risky. Gibbs was pretty bad when I went there. I mean, I got beaten down by a gang myself while I was attending summer school between my Freshman and Sophomore years. From what I’ve seen and heard the school is even worse now. The program, however, remains strong…and right now I think it’s where he needs to be. He seems to have been bitten by the theater bug, and of all the schools here in Pinellas county that is the one that is going to allow him to explore that to the fullest. If he decides at the end of his career there that he wants to go on and pursue a life in the theater I will support him fully in that, but it’s a hard road. I want to make sure that if he goes that route it’s because it is something he really, really wants. I think four years in PCCA will help him sort that out.

Wow. I’ve only killed an hour here. I have moved outside to sit in my car and see if, perhaps, the wi-fi signal is a bit better here. It is, unfortunately, not. I continue to compose this post in Notepad. I think I’m actually going to shut this down and just take my iPod in to listen to an episode of This American Life or something appropriately adult like that.

So now it’s Monday morning, and I’m finally taking a few minutes to post this out to my blog. Last night was the first ever Jobsite season wrap party, and it was an absolute blast. It was held at The Refinery, where Greg and Michelle (along with their staff) put together a phenomenal spread. There was karaoke a-plenty, delicious beer, and wonderful company. Such a good time.

While we were there we got to talking to Michelle about the possibility of Alex food running for them on busy nights. Nothing is set in stone at all at this point, but there seems to at least be a remote possibility that he may start doing so.

Yet another step in the ladder that he’s taking to adulthood.

Tomorrow he starts high school. In just over a year he’ll be chomping at the bit to buy a car. He’s looking at potential employment. In only four years he’s going to be getting ready to go to college. On the one hand it all makes me feel quite old, but on the other I am constantly excited to see the next step in his evolution.

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  One Response to “Jumping around like an idiot”

  1. Great piece. It always amazed me how fast children grow up. Months can go by and you turn around and look at them and see so many changes going on. I’m glad you look at Alex’s growth the way you do it is not always easy to let them make mistakes but they learn more by doing it that way than you making decisions for them and sometimes them resenting you for that. Keep up the good wok! lol.

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