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.

 

A CHRISTMAS DILEMMA

brown treeJody and I have a dilemma. Our kids have Christmas all year long. They don’t want for anything.

Well, of course, they have a Christmas list. But … Antonio won’t get a hoverboard. He won’t get an upgrade to his iPhone 6. And, Crystel will have to wait to meet Ellen DeGeneres.

Jody and I created our own problem. We don’t wait for holidays or birthdays to gift them.

Antonio needed cross country boots and skis for Nordic skiing. We went to Sports Authority, our default store. We learned that they do not carry cross country boots or skis. While there, I encouraged Antonio to pick out five pairs of sweat pants and tops, his default clothing of choice. I had noticed his pant legs were creeping up. In my day, they called those “high water pants.”

Then we went to Dick’s, and they also didn’t have what we were looking for but they had socks for Antonio.

Finally, at REI we purchased the cross country boots, which we would end up returning because they were the wrong style. Still, while we were there I encouraged Antonio to pick out some dehydrated meals to try at home – anticipating his Boy Scout trip to Alaska in August of 2016.

The original purpose of our trip would prove fruitless yet bountiful for Antonio.

I mentioned the ‘Christmas all year long’ concept to Antonio and Crystel.

Though they didn’t disagree, they were not wild about my conclusion. I suppose they imagined a bare tree. Not hard to do when there isn’t even snow on the ground in Minnesota.

Still there has to be something under the tree for them. Something they don’t yet want.

Then there it was – snow boots. They need snow boots. Antonio will be taking a couple of winter camping trips with the Scouts. And Crystel’s no longer fit her. 

This may be the biggest surprise of all on Christmas Eve, since its December 21, 2015 and there is no snow on the ground in Minnesota.