As a parent, you never know what is sticking and what isn't in the minds of our little people. We can see their personalities blossom and watch their behaviors at home but what are they like when we aren't around? I've always said that I wanted my son to have choices, so he could problem solve when necessary. I wanted him to do what was right but not because there was punishment when he didn't. I wanted him to learn right from wrong because it felt right or wrong. I wanted him to eat because he was hungry and not because it was forced. I also allowed him to be picky and quirky to discover what he liked and didn't. Allowed him to pick out his own clothes, even if they didn't match or he wanted winter boots in 90 degree weather. I'd encourage his strong will (within defined real life boundaries) because when it really mattered, I wanted him to have strong will and be picky. When confronted with peer pressure, drugs, alcohol or who knows what kids are faced with these days, I wanted him to have the tools to stand up for himself.
So I would explain, educate, and share; but at the end of the day you never really know if your parenting decisions were right. All you can do is follow your gut and hope for the best. Then you send them off in to the world, and hope they become decent human beings with compassion, kindness, good quality of life, ready to face the world, and become part or the solution in the challenges they face. You hope they will be picky, strong willed, and fight for what is right.
But then there are days that they become a teen. They roll their eyes, call you stupid, and you get a note from the teacher or the principal, or you spend an entire evening in battle of the wits, and you worry. "Did I do the right thing?"..... Those days pass, and you are reminded that in fact, he is just fine! He's a teen. A very normal teen with emotions, and hormones raging that he doesn't even understand. So you learn to be understanding (within defined boundaries) You provide more responsibility and offer real-life consequences until one day......
....At the age of thirteen my guy went away with his class for five days. Now I've sent him off before to long camps, friends houses, or with family, and love the feedback I get. But this is the first time as a TEEN, with incredible TEEN-TUDE that he was given the freedom away from family to eat what ever he wanted, spend a couple hundred dollars if he wanted, be crazy with his peers if he chose, and for the first time in his life, he could have totally let lose to be whomever or whatever he wanted. Turns out, he wanted to just be him and I couldn't be prouder. People would say: "You just wait, he will rebel"... You know what? I'm just not worried about that anymore.
Sure, we've had hard days. And before the trip we had the "Stay out of trouble talk" and the "Keep an eye on your things" chat. We discussed the safest way to carry money in a big city. And that he should be respectful even if the assigned activity was boring, and anything else he may need to know in this environment. But I also told him to feel free to have fun and try new things. His dad even gave him extra money to buy what ever he wanted (against my better judgement because I thought he should have earned spending money by working for it). While I made sure he had enough money for the best quality meals at the available options, to splurge and order whatever he wanted.
This kid... my kid.... This TEENAGER with incredible new TEEN-Tude at home <that suddenly takes 30 minutes to roll out of bed on a good day>... went off in to the world and not only was he respectful, responsible, and compassionate to others, but he woke up early to organize what he needed for the day. He not only took care of all his things, but when he came home, everything was back in the exact bag pockets they left with. After five days, two hotels, and three states, he was completely organized and didn't forget a SINGLE thing. He even brought the unused snacks back in their original packaging.
As for the money? He spent responsibly at meals, brought more than 1/2 of it back home, remembered to give tips to wait staff, and refused to eat at the fast food restaurants. He also avoided all the sugar drinks and pop that others were consuming, and stayed away from everything that may not like his stomach. When I asked if he decided to try red meat or dairy products, he was like: "DUH <with teen eye roll> Why would I do that?".... Ha! Of course, why would you do that!
And why did he not have wi-fi in the hotel? Because it required an email address, (he only has a school email address)... The other kids suggested fake email addresses. My child thought that was dishonest and didn't partake.
They also went shopping, had candy stores, general stores, gas stations, a hundred souvenir shops, and so much more. What did my kid spend his Dad's surprise money on? A BOOK... Seriously, He bought a BOOK to READ! ONE BOOK!!! As in the paper kind to add to his collection. He could have spent his food money and his dad's money on what ever the city offered and we wouldn't have been the wiser. But he spent food money on food. And he bought a book! Ha, I'm still in awe! At his age, I was pretty responsible, but even I would have spent the money and come home with a lot more than a book.
At one point upon my utter gushing of proud mom words, he says... "Well Mom, what did you expect?"....
Ha! You know what? I shouldn't have expected anything less from that boy! Turns out, he is going to be A-OKAY! Smart Alec, Pain in the Tush, AND ALL....
There is no telling what will happen as he gets older, moves out, and has a life of his own. First, I have to get him to ride a bike and eventually drive a car but that is a whole other story. In fact, he'll change 1000 times before then, have a 1000 more life experiences, and make 1000's of poor choices as he learns how to navigate this thing called life. But he will always be HIM, just like each kid is uniquely them.
As for parenting, we all do the best we know how. Sometimes it is right, and sometimes it isn't. Sometimes they will drive us up a wall, to the ceiling, and back down again. We may even totally screw it all up. But watching this guy grow in to a mostly responsible young man is certainly fun to see. Especially when he organizes his luggage exactly the way I do mine. <Heart flutters>