I was just thinking about all the recent upset I have had with my son in the last few months, concerning his decision to join a particular church, that is known for being somewhat ‘brainwashing and quite conservative.
We have finally come to a detant, after I forbid him to attend that church anymore. He hasn’t changed his beliefs, though, and of course, I shouldn’t have really expected that. But while I was thinking about whether my decision is useful or helpful in any way other than making me feel better, I realized that in 10 days, he will be turning 17.
The question then is, what is the difference in a person between 17 and 18 years old? Oh, sure, there are the legal things, like being able to join the army and able to sign a contract, buy cigarettes, but what about wanting to find your own definition of who you are, and what you believe in? Is that really going to change significantly in one year, especially if I force him to not act on his choices in the meantime? Aren’t I really hindering his own self-exploration?
It occurred to me that I was 17 when my mom kicked me out of the house a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving, when I would have graduated at Christmas time. And what I did then was drive to my dad’s with all my belongings in the back seat of my 1972 AMC Hornet. My dad quickly arranged for me to move from Chicago, where I had a car, a job, friends, and was about to graduate, to town the size of a speck in the hinterlands of rural Iowa, with some elderly cousins.
So, in one week, I went from almost complete autonomy at age 17 to being completely trapped and cut off. And all I wanted was to live my own life my own way. I just wanted to get an apartment, start college, get a job and take care of myself.
So, in light of that, I think about my son, and I think about what he would do right now, if he was 18. And I think he would want to the same things. And for him, that might include exploring his spirituality, even in a direction I don’t agree with. But looking at what I could have done if I hadn’t been shipped off to no-whereland, I could have got a friend to let me crash, or found a place to park my car and crash. I could have kept my job and graduated and taken care of myself. And I was only 17 too.
So, now I’m thinking that he is as capable of handling himself as I would’ve been; he’s capable of self-exploration, like I was, and mostly, of self-definition, just like I was. So, I think instead of blocking him, instead of stopping him, from figuring out who he is, I should let him start taking of himself, let him start to define himself, instead of being forced to go against what he feels is right for him just because he is only 17. I wish I would have had that chance too, instead of being locked away for another year, unable to figure myself out.