1980 vs. 2008

Little Dog is about to turn 16. It's sort of puzzling, the lack of enthusiasm he and his friends are displaying about this momentous birthday (both his and their own.) When I was turning 16 I all but parked at the Tag Agency the night before so I could obtain my driver's license as soon as possible. But these kids are just kind of "meh" about the whole driving deal. I have friends with kids who are 18 and still haven't moseyed down to the DMV. LD displays a definite interest in driving, but it's not all consuming as it was with me and my friends.

I also have to admit that LD and crew haven't done half the crazy things I had done by the time my 16th rolled around. I was certainly not a "bad" kid, nor were my friends. But by 14 I had already been drunk (and tearfully confessed the same to my mom the very next day, so strong was my guilt.) I had also smoked pot, hitchhiked, and I'm pretty sure I had probably done a hit of speed or two... And I was a fairly shy and sheltered straight A kid.

I am not proud of the above, nor do I have any excuse. I can offer explanations; like the fact that my best friend's mom was an established artist who, in fact, cultivated a very nice pot garden for the family on the roof of her studio. It was she who gave me my first drink of Vodka; my sputtering choking reaction causing her great mirth. She wasn't a bad person; just a bit bohemian. When I spent the night at my friend's house we would walk down to the Brookside bar to find her and ask permission (and money) to order a pizza. Then we would hitchhike up and down the strip just because we were bored.

My own mom did the absolute best she knew how to do in raising me, but there was some of her own upbringing she couldn't, and didn't know she should, overcome. Divorce had left her a single mom, something that in 1964 was embarrassing, uncommon, and led to her leading a very stressful life playing the both the role of mother and father. This meant she worked her butt off, put in a ton of overtime, and in her "free" time she cleaned the house, did the repairs and mowed the yard. There wasn't a lot of time to hang out with me. Most of our bonding occurred during the 30 minute commute home every week day.

Bonding is probably not the correct word. Parenting is more apt. Like any good parent she attended all the parent teacher conferences and school programs, so there was no reason to talk about school. She oversaw my Dr.'s appointments; taking me in for the obligatory shot of penicillin Dr. Fanning always gave when mom took me in for a fever or sore throat. Therefore, there was never a reason to ask me how I was feeling. Emotions were what you displayed, but never talked about, when I was young. When I reached puberty - or at least the age it was expected - Mom ordered a starter kit from Kotex and handed it to me when it arrived. All I remember thinking was, "Ew," and I stuffed it in the back of the linen closet. I guess she assumed the films the girls were shown at school addressed any questions I might have.

Mom was a good southern girl who was raised with the understanding that good southern girls never talked about sex or bodily functions. As such, I was pretty clueless and VERY guilt ridden during my pubescent years.

Because of my own ignorance and upbringing, I vowed to raise my own children armed with all the age appropriate information they needed. I won't embarrass LD by repeating anecdotes about his experiences, but I will say that I used every question as an opportunity to inform. I am fully aware that at times this embarrassed him in the usual "Gads mom!" kind of way. I am also pretty sure that some (albeit embarrassed) part of him is pretty grateful.

I remember when I was studying for my Doula certification, which involved more than one birthing film. LD was only 4 at the time, but he watched the babies being born with me and, perhaps because of the innocence of a child, he reacted with the same amazed reverence of the birth process that I felt. I was still married to RB at the time, and will never forget when he came into the dining room where I was studying and (LD was pretending to study) and freaked out when LD showed him a picture of a nursing mom and commented, "Look Daddy, she has hot dog boobs!" (To his credit, the woman's breasts were pretty elongated.) Anyway, RB was the kind of guy who couldn't look at a naked breast without feeling funny, and with whom I refused to ever watch an R rated movie because of his sophomoric reaction to nudity.

RB was out of our daily lives by the time LD was 8, so I was on my own. It was me who had the "Things That Are Happening to Your Body" talk; the "How Babies are Made" talk; who taught him how to shave and managed to answer no small amount of questions about a particular body part I myself did not have.

So now he is just a few days away from 16 and I think I've done a pretty good job. In fact, I think LD is far more mature than any 16 year old boy I've ever met. I trust that he has never inhaled or imbibed. I know which of his friends, all girls I might add, who have. He knows of my own mistakes and understands that rather than my experiences being justification for his own, they are ways I can teach him from a position of knowledge. He knows I consider myself lucky to have made it through adolescence and to adulthood unscathed - no past STDs, drug addictions, accidental overdoses, or drunken accidents. He knows that I was intelligent, mature and 28 yet his own birth was unplanned, and while I have no regrets about this, it did change my life and postpone certain plans.

As a parent I certainly don't think I have it all perfect. I wing it a lot. I just parent with two very distinct guidelines: 1. Knowledge is power and 2. Nothing is accomplished by dishonesty. The concept of consequences is pretty important in my method also.

So, while I hear other parents of teens wrought with worry about the freedom a driver's license brings, I don't have the same fears. I may find it a bit different that he's not counting the minutes and camping at the DMV, but I am proud that, in this, he is taking his time until he is ready. If he does this with all of the rites of passage to come, then I will have done my job right.