Friday, November 16, 2012

The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

Last Sunday, I received a text from Son-One's Girlfriend and opened it to find this:

If you look closely, you can see Son-One up on the peak of their house, where he is stringing Christmas lights on a gorgeous (and rare-ish) seventy degree day in November. When I saw the picture, two things popped into my mind. First, there's nothing like your twenty-four-year-old son and his girlfriend buying a house to make you feel old. And second, I was reminded of this photo, taken six years ago:
Yes, that is Son-One swinging from the arm of a trebuchet-in-progress. And, incidentally, Son-Two's providing the counterweight that is holding his brother fifteen feet or so above the ground. While this may look merely like teenage boys with poor risk assessment skills1, insufficient parental supervision and unfettered access to power tools and scrap wood, it was, in fact, science--a physics assignment in which two of my sons, along with two other boys had to build a trebuchet capable of hurling a smallish pumpkin a specified distance. This photo was allegedly the boys "testing" the strength of the arm they had built by hoisting a human being roughly ten times the weight of the pumpkin in question.
I no longer remember the grade they received on this project (nor do I remember whether they were successful at the "extra credit"2 portion of their assignment which was to see how far they could hurl a (non-functioning) 19" TV), what I have never forgotten is the strange mixture of pride and utter terror I felt at the sight of this picture--at the sight of my boys using their intelligence and superior motor skills to put themselves in at least moderate danger. It was the same feeling I had as each of my children became fully mobile, wiggling, waddling and wobbling their way out into the world where I've since watched them face both physical and emotional dangers.  
And it's the same feeling I had last Saturday, as I looked at the photo of a grownish man on the roof of his house, framed against blue sky and wispy clouds, making a life of his own out there in the big, scary world.

1. Forgive the redundancy.

2. Let there be no doubt, the quotation marks are meant to indicate that any "credit" awarded for flinging a television would come not in the form of percentage points or letter grades but in deep (and deeply adolescent) personal satisfaction.


  1. Two of my three twenty-something sons are CALFIRE firefighters. I have no desire to see the kinds of pictures that I am sure they have. Jumping out of helicopters, to fight wildfires, is something I would rather not see in action. Putting Christmas lights up sounds so much better. Thanks for the post.

  2. This is reminds me of what an utterly boring child I must be ... Sometimes I think I might need to give my parents something to worry about ... then I go back to baking and blogging about it.

  3. I have to laugh. Having three boys myself, I can easily imagine receiving these photos. In fact, the subject of a trebuchet has come up more than once. My husband has wanted to build one with my kids for years. No TVs, happily, were mentioned.

  4. I'm not sure that risk assessment is much different than what my 4 and 2 year olds process now. Huh.

  5. :-O I thank every twist of fate that gave me girls!! Although the youngest does like to throw a little climbing in just to keep me on my toes ;-)