Packing Your Teenager

Juan took this rainbow photo in Alaska

Photo by Juan Jose’

I thought I had Juan packed for life.

In his backpack were all the essentials for his Boy Scout trip to Alaska. He would be Denali hiking and animal watching, Kesugi Ridge backpacking, whitewater rafting, glacier exploring, salmon fishing, sea kayaking and camping by the Columbia glacier.

Inside his internal frame pack, Juan had base and middle layers for upper and lower. He had all the must haves: whistle, bowl, spork, insect repellant and water bottle. I even made sure that he had the optional items: foot powder, matches/lighter, compass, and pocket knife.

Of course, Juan helped pack. He picked out his stocking cap and gloves, sleeping bag, tent, and sleeping pad and all of the items that went into his backpack.  I was along as his advisor.

Photo by Juan

Photo by Juan Jose’

Juan would be gone for 12 days. His emancipation from his parents, I thought. And, to that end, Jody and I didn’t initiate contact while he was gone. Of course, this was also made easy because he was out of cell range.

There were times while he was gone that I felt smug. I had followed the packing list to a tee even though I’m not one to follow rules. I had helped him bag his items into gallon Ziploc bags so he would be organized and his clothes dry.

This packing had gone so well that I was starting to feel that this is all one had to do for their teenager.

Follow a list, not do the work for him but with him, and then drive him to the airport.

Photo by Juan Jose'

Photo by Juan Jose’

Now it was up to him to dress to stay warm … or not. To stay dry … or not. To brush his teeth … or not. He had all the essentials. He would make the decisions.

I figured when he came home we could follow this pattern in his teen years. Give him the information he needed—like a packing list for life—and then let him decide what to do.

That was until Jody told me that being cold in Alaska … or not and being dry … or not, didn’t equate to other decisions that he’d have to make as a teenager. That those decisions could have a life-long effect.

Juan Jose' Antonio Sol di Grazia

photo by Juan Jose’

I thought about my teenage years and realized she was right. I was pregnant at age 14 and 15. Juan could have a room full of packing lists, all the guidance in the world from friends, teachers and parents, and still make decisions that could alter the course of his life.

Even so, all there was to do when I saw him at the airport was hug him tight and welcome him home.

We’d be walking these years together.

 

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This entry was posted in Parenting and tagged , , , , , , , by Elizabeth di Grazia. Bookmark the permalink.

About Elizabeth di Grazia

An artist, I follow the nudge inside of me. This nudge led me to write Peace Corps stories, find the front door to the Loft, and to graduate from Hamline’s MFA program. The story that became my thesis for Hamline is woven into my book manuscript: HOUSE OF FIRE: From the Ashes, A Family, a memoir of healing and redemption. It’s a story about family. And a story about love–for my partner Jody and the son and daughter we adopted from Guatemala. Most days, I can be found working as a Human Resource Manager for a foundry in Minneapolis. When I am not at the foundry I may be volunteering as a Police Reserve Officer for Richfield, MN or kicking butt at Kor Am Tae Kwon Do.

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