Today Tony, my oldest son, turns eighteen. In celebration of this momentous occasion — and of the looming specter of my own mortality that it engenders — I'd like to take a moment to reflect on the results of eighteen years of parenting and family life, i.e. what he owes us.
I'm not talking about the money spent on him thus far, which comes to approximately $139, 074 (according to figures from the U.S.D.A. 2001 Cost of Raising a Child table, something that clearly fails to factor in the price of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles figures). That's chump change. I'm talking about the daily costs and pressures of raising a child versus the advantages and blessings. Let's see how he did, shall we?
First there was that whole asthma thing. Lots of emergency room visits in the early years ($300 a pop to walk in the door at the time) and constant, obsessive attention to his breath rate and general health. However, it also meant that we were forced to explain and justify our discipline instead of just hitting him, for fear of triggering another asthma attack. As a result he has always been extremely polite and soft-spoken, and we talk to each other easily. This is a tribute to his personality since the same technique worked about as effectively with his little brother as asking a landslide to please keep it down.
Also, thanks to the years of medication and inhalers and hospital stays, he's never shown the slightest interest in smoking, alcohol, or illicit drugs. Of course, it may simply be that the drug hasn't been designed that could make him any stranger than he is while wide-awake and stone-cold sober.
From the time he began talking he didn't stop, ever, presumably breathing through his ears, until the age of 8 when he discovered video games. Now he expresses himself intelligently and well, something he uses to good effect in his school's Model U.N. club, and I find my resultant hearing loss comes in handy when passing construction sites.
He never went out of his way to clean the house or do extra chores (and by 'extra' I mean 'any') but, in his favor, he also never set fire to anything expensive or got brought home by anyone ominously official, so already he's ahead of my own teenage years on points.
He doesn't see the point of cleaning his room, but he doesn't make us clean ours, either.
He prefers bizarre print shirts and purple sneakers. This made shopping more of a challenge, but he's always been easy to pick out of a crowd when necessary.
He has nothing pierced or tattooed and his pants are safely pulled up, so he's welcome to do whatever he wants with his hair.
His computer and electronic needs have been expensive at times. To his credit, he has not (yet) been subpoenaed by the Recording Industry Association of America.
He possesses amazing powers of procrastination and I'll have to talk to him about that one of these days.
He did not become a sports hero, a teenage published author, a child star, or one of those kids who disproves a 400-year-old mathematical theorem for kicks. On the plus side, he's never come up to us with a blushing girl (or blushing boy) and said, 'Dad? We need to tell you something…' so he's got me beat there, too.
He has, so far, completely failed to murder his brother, which could be good or bad, depending.
He likes our music, movies, books, and jokes, which is just weird. It's driving me crazy wondering when he's going to get around to rebelling against us, and what form it will take.
And while his gifted and advanced and IB program classes have always cost us plenty in lab fees and field trips and such, he's chosen a field where he can make a pile of cash and support his loving parents in the style to which they've always wanted to become accustomed.
Tallying everything up, I'd say that we were very lucky to have him as a son, and he's now a man I'm proud to know. Even with that shirt on.