It is just past eleven, and I am flying up the highway faster than I should be in my present state of exhaustion. Between my son’s work schedule and my own, I have been driving this highway too late every night this week. My son is in the car with me, and he chatters on, animatedly telling me about his night at work.
On this night, he trained the “new kid,” and I remind him that he is the new kid. I can hear the smile in his voice as he says, “Not anymore!” He’s been working not quite three weeks, and he is already training other workers older than he is. He’s in this job to move up, but he understands he has to start at the bottom.
He keeps talking, and I force my eyes to stay open. Just a few more minutes, I tell myself. Despite the fact that I believe I am driving faster than usual, my speedometer says 60. The speed limit is 65, and I blame fatigue and the fact that it is dark and rainy and the road surface could be slick at this time of year. I don’t linger for even a second on the thought that I am getting older, and driving in the dark is not what it used to be.
For a brief moment as my son talks, I have a flashback to a time when he was little. Very little. (Think Steve Martin in Father of the Bride when his daughter is sitting across the table telling him about her wedding, and all he can see is this tiny little child telling him about her plans.) My son was in pre-school and he was at a birthday party. I always thought of him as somewhat of a shy-ish kid, especially in social situations. At this party, I was in the kitchen and there was a bit of a chaotic scene in the family room as the children tried to work together on a project involving string and glue and various pieces. All of a sudden, I heard my son’s voice rise above the voices of the other children. “Guys,” he said. “GUYS!!” and then he proceeded to relay the vision he had to make order out of chaos. At the time, his authoritative voice caught me so by surprise that I quickly moved to the door to watch what his four-year-old self take charge. In that moment, I saw an early flicker of his leadership potential.
Now, as he navigates his late teens, he is beginning to find his niche. He is involved in activities in which he feels comfortable and confident, and his leadership abilities are beginning to burn brighter. What once was a flicker is now a steady flame. It is amazing what can happen when a kid—anyone, really—finds his or her passion. I only hope he will continue to follow his passions, and not get distracted by the things that don’t matter.
I look forward to watching his journey, sharing in it with him, and helping him along the way. And I am hoping for many more of those crazy flashbacks to his childhood to remind me how far we have come.