If this were the wild, he would already be gone

op frWhen next week’s edition of The Smoky Mountain News hits the streets Wednesday, June 15, my youngest will be a high school graduate and my wife will be gone for a month to walk across Spain with our middle child Hannah.

The fact that those two events are happening at almost the same time is purely coincidence. When Hannah made plans to spend the spring semester of her junior year studying abroad, we didn’t think about how that would coincide with Liam’s graduation. And when we decided it would be a lifetime adventure for Lori and Hannah — both fluent Spanish speakers — to walk part of the Camino de Santiago together, we didn’t really consider that Liam and I would be home for a month, alone, two men.

And I say “men” with a certain amount of satisfaction. My son will turn 18 in July, and I’m very of proud of the engaging, intelligent, funny and considerate young man he has become. He’s ready for college life and being on his own.

I’ve told many people in recent months that watching him grow more independent has made me think our system of making all kids go through the 12th grade before heading to college will likely continue to evolve and change. I know early college and opportunities like that are cropping up, and I’m confident more programs like that are in our future. Some kids are just ready earlier than others.

In fact, if we lived in the wild, the probability is that I would have kicked Liam out of the herd just about a year ago. Don’t get me wrong; that’s not because he’s a bad kid. Quite the opposite. He is both smart and head strong — just like his mom — and so those two tend to quarrel over the smallest matters: cooking pasta, washing dishes, laundry detail, cleaning his room, opinions about teachers and school, etc. Typical mom and son stuff, and my daughters and I like to joke about how Lori and Liam are so much alike that they both refuse to back down. 

 But part of the reason for that is because he is already capable of taking care of himself, and so chafes sometimes when we treat him like a kid. And, I remind my wife all the time, it’s only once he is on his own that he’ll realize just how much she does for him and how meaningful all that small stuff is. 

Yep, it’s been about a year that he’s been mature enough to go out into the world on his own — if we were in the wild. Luckily for me, we aren’t (well, some might call either or both of us wild, but that’s another story). So we’ll get to spend these next few months together (perhaps he’ll be back for another summer, but somehow I doubt it). And for a month, it will be just the two of us sharing the house.

We’ll cook meals together — did I say he’s a pretty good cook, another way he’s just like his mom — order pizzas other nights, go mountain biking, hiking, watch some soccer matches and go to the movies, do as little cleaning as we can get by with, perhaps complete a home project or two, probably see each other in passing more than we have in years, and just talk. And all that time together — including after Lori returns in July — will be multiplied in importance and memories for us, while for him it will be just a small segment of an ongoing passage into adulthood. 

As he graduates and prepares to leave home, all I wish for him is to find his own path and own successes instead of following where others lead, to do good by his friends and family, to work hard, and perhaps think a little more deeply about life than it seems some of his generation are wont to do. 

And I can say confidently that I feel really good about his chances. Congrats, Liam. 

(Scott McLeod can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..) 

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