From his earliest years of talking, all the way to five minutes ago, Jeremy has been a curious, inquisitive, chatty kid. I cannot recall a single exchange between the two of us that ever resulted in contented silence. There is always a follow-up question, a petition, a clarification, an appeal. Sometimes I entertain them, sometimes I don’t.
For example, when I say, “Go fold your laundry,” I am uninterested in having a conversation about folding laundry.
However, when I say, “No, you can’t watch House of Cards. It has adult content,” he wants to know what level of adult content I’m talking about (language? violence?) and why the adult content is pertinent to the story. Hence, a conversation.
In recent months, he’s asked me about North Korean propaganda, child sex slavery, why someone would give up God for a girlfriend, and what exactly is going on in the Middle East. I’ve sketched out the election primary process on the back of a grocery list and explained what a suicide bomber is, unfortunately.
When he was five, he wanted to discuss the theological basis for believing that the devil is real. He wanted scriptural references and all.
To say that Jeremy keeps me on my toes is an understatement. While Jackson lives in his own innocent world about 95% of the time, Jeremy is ever-present, always watching. If he’s quiet, it’s because he’s processing information and developing his list of questions. Or he’s asleep.
This is why the fact that he still plays with Legos is a sweet reprieve from his day-to-day existence as an old soul. This morning, prior to starting his school work, he built a ship:
I love this. I insanely love this. I took a photo, we talked about it, I complimented him on his brick color coordination (which I happen to appreciate). It is a sweet reminder that my almost-13 year old is still a child. He’s not lost to puberty yet. We still have some time.
It is also a reminder to me that I need to keep some things to myself for a little longer. For example, maybe the suicide bomber conversation was too much. Maybe I should’ve explained sex slavery with more benign words, if any such words exist. I expect a lot out of Jeremy, sometimes too much. I forget that he is a child, and in some respects, he’s more sheltered than a lot of other kids. I’m not looking to expose him for the sake of exposure, but neither are we keeping our kids in an unrealistic bubble where nothing bad happens. This sort of juggling makes parenting terrifically more cerebral than I anticipated.
I find that I’m constantly evaluating my words, saying them first in my head, then rearranging them to fit the audience. This is the right thing to do, by the way.
It’s also the hardest.
We tease Jeremy about being a 45-year-old man in the body of a 12-year-old boy. He laughs at this, albeit wishing he was indeed a grown-up and making all of his own decisions. We challenge him, push him, keep him looking forward, but we also hold him back, reminding him that he’s not an adult yet and doesn’t have the experience that we do. So often, after we’ve said everything we can on a topic, we surrender and say, “You’ll understand when you’re older,” which causes him to grimace.
Again, that’s the right thing to do. Explain what you can, in the best words possible, then let it lie. Keep the lines of communication open and wait for the next touchy subject to slap you in the face.
And then go build a Lego ship, because after watching North Korean propaganda videos on YouTube, what’s left?