The most recent teen independence adventure: catch the train, get off at the third stop and go to the $1 movie. Then walk to a nearby friend’s house and eat his packed lunch: 2 GFDF burritos and some salad greens with separate salad dressings–all of which he packed mostly himself but he did not plan. To be fair, he had no clue he needed a lunch until this morning.
I sent him with $3 more than he calculated needing. I knew he needed $1 more because he was underestimating the cost of movie snacks. His goal is to come home with $3 (he self imposed that goal. I don’t care if he comes back with nothing because it’s his money).
On his last jaunt he managed to overcome the overwhelming temptation to spend his return trip train ticket money.
THAT. WAS. BIG.
I’d love to think it meant that he knew I may not bail him out except that we both know I would have gone to get him. So that means he actually resisted an overwhelming impulse!!!
Let’s tie in the conversation we had the week prior when I went to the bank to get cash for him (from his own account). We went through the process of adding up what he needed and then tacked on what he WANTED and then he threw on a few dollars “just in case”. I had to enlighten him to the fact that allowances were on hold because of our family’s continuing underemployment. We talked about how much he had in his account for these little trips and how many of those trips he could do if he took X-number-of-dollars each time. Then we talked about how “that’s just trips to play Magic”… it didn’t even consider the many other cool things he liked to do.
His expression was bittersweet. He got very quiet with the reality of it all. On one hand, I was heartbroken FOR him. On the other hand, I was OVERJOYED that he really, truly understood how finite his money was. He started thinking about what he could (legitimately and realistically) do to make more money… walk dogs, mow lawns. I physically felt him grow up in that conversation.
All this time I ached for him to understand the gravity and reality of the world he walked through, and now that he had–I was sad for the loss of his childhood.
He took the train with one friend and they returned together later. He told me that he actually came home with more money than he planned. Apparently the friend bought a 10-trip pass at a discount and allowed the ticket-taker to punch the pass once for each of them. Immediately, I directed my son to pay his friend back the $2 train fee and later we talked about his friend being younger and the logistics of making sure we don’t take advantage. After all, he had the money he needed for the ticket.
I heard about how they opted out of the movie snacks and instead walked past the game store where they play Magic the Gathering–where they bought cheaper candy.
By the time they got back to the “base” house, it was almost time for them to turn around and get on the train. He called me using his Gizmo and posed this problem to me. He wanted to stay. The base-home mama was okay with that and the boy he took the train with was also okay–so they got another hour. My son asked me to set the alarm on his Gizmo again (he can’t do that) so that it would remind him to head to the train station on time.
They must have eaten and then the boys split into groups. One group went to the park and my son stayed behind with another boy to draw.
Eventually they made it back. I picked both boys up at the train station and drove his friend home (they had picked my son up on the way to the train earlier).
It’s becoming “normal” now… this riding the train two towns over to explore the downtown there and our own downtown… It’s becoming “not such a big deal” for him to be without adult supervision. The novelty of having money in his pocket. He told me today that he had a plan for funding his trips to the game shop by way of selling his most valuable card to the shop for store credit. It would buy him at least 8 entry fees to Magic the Gathering and that was worth it for him. That would free up his actual money for other things.
Again, I am treasuring every moment I can. I’m struggling under the enormous stress of our family situation and how it plays on my developmental trauma issues, but finding myself managing not to lash out as often as I might have because I am keenly aware of how limited our time is.
For that, I am thankful.