Sunday, April 2, 2017

What we did right with each of our kids - Part III - Jared

(NOTE: Parents are forever lamenting the things they wish they had done differently with their children. "I should have been more strict about this" or "I wish I had let her participate in that." That type of stuff. I see nothing productive there, so instead I choose to celebrate the things that Terry and I appear to have done well with our children. Plus, it's a good way to fill five days of blog posts. So there's that.)

My son Jared, now 18, was as tall as me when he was 12 or 13 years old. This isn't saying much as I'm of exceedingly average height (5-9½, thank you very much), but now that he has topped out at around 6-1, "tall" is one of his defining characteristics.

There are many people taller than Jared, of course, but for our family, he's a giant.

Speaking of which  true story  one time when was about 10, he was playing soccer and one of the players on the opposing team urged his teammates to "cover the giant," referring to Jared. Every once in a while, Terry or I will exclaim, "Cover the giant!" And the other one will chuckle appreciatively.

For many years, Jared was my Man Child. He looked older than he really was up until high school, at which point he looked like someone who was exactly where they should be. Now, as high school winds down for him, he looks to me like someone trying to figure out where he belongs next.

Which is perfect. That's what you should be doing when you're 18.

Here are five things I'd like to think Jared's mother and I did right for him:

(1) We let him be who he is. Jared is a quiet guy. He talks to people now more than he used to, but he is still widely known as The Quiet Tennant. And that's fine. Jared is who he is, and any attempt to make him seem more outgoing would have been disingenuous and ultimately unfair. (By the way, he and I have always talked a lot. If you know Jared only in passing, you might be surprised to learn he is one of the funniest people I know. He has a dry sense of humor that just kills me.)

(2) We encouraged him to kick a football. In the grand scheme of things, the three years Jared spent as a kicker for the Wickliffe High School football team may seem unimportant. And yes, he will undoubtedly do far more important things in his life. But the experience of putting on the shoulder pads and playing under the lights every Friday night was one he'll never forget, I'm sure. He got there largely on his own. No one sought him out to kick. As a freshman, he asked the coach what he needed to do to become a kicker. He found out where he needed to be and when, and he showed up. He found what he needed to learn, and he learned it. All on his own. No kicking coach or anything, just Jared. Let's hear it for personal initiative.

(3) We let him destroy our garage with hockey pucks. OK, we did't let him do this, but to Terry's credit, she has kept herself from killing Jared for putting a variety of dents in our garage door and gouges in our garage walls. Jared never played organized hockey, but I played living room and driveway hockey with him when he was a lot younger, and to this day his love of the sport continues to grow. When I think back to my own sports experiences with my dad, most of the memories revolve around attending Indians games and watching Friday night boxing matches together. I hope that one day for Jared, one of his memories of his dad will be watching, playing and talking about hockey. It's our thing, as is a shared love for Cleveland sports.

(4) We told him what he should do and watched when he chose to ignore our advice. The older he gets, the more The Boy seems to follow our teaching (sometimes grudgingly). But over the years, he has more than once gone his own direction, often with less-than-desirable results. I'll say it again: There is value in screwing up. Let it happen.

(5) We taught him he is loved. Jared is not an outwardly affectionate guy. He will occasionally hug his mother, but it's not an everyday thing. Still, in everything he has done, and in every decision he has made, we tried to make it clear that we loved him no matter what. I think he gets that concept in his head for now. Someday he'll understand it in his heart, too.

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