This parenting thing... why didn't anyone tell me it was so full of difficult decisions. So. Much. Gray... I really like things Black and White. Right and Wrong.
There have been a few situations recently that have caused us to stop and THINK and try not to over-react. These situations have really tested our resolve to look at the big picture and not focus on quick wins, easy way outs, and short term harmony. As I think I've mentioned before, we conscientiously try to remember that our goal as parents is to build good, capable, well-adjusted and HAPPY people.
One of the things that Bob and I have purposely considered when making decisions is that we really want our kids to be confident and capable. This is not the same as cocky... and we have MANY conversations with a certain 14 year old about remaining humble. But confidence is one of those traits that 1) you can build and 2) you will reap rewards from for your whole life. I want my kids to believe they can do whatever they put their mind to do. And *I* believe they can do this. Of course there are some limits. None of my kids will play in the NBA. But when it comes to trying new stuff and working toward reasonable goals, I want them to GO FOR IT. I never want them to look back and think "man, I wish I had done xxxxx, but my parents discouraged me from trying."
So this all leads us to Spencer's recent purchase of a truck. In Georgia, you get your learners permit at age 15. You have to have it for 12 months before you can get your limited driver's license. (Aside - I can hardly believe we are having serious conversation about one of my kids driving a car. Sigh... our time with him is nearly over...) This gives Spencer roughly 15 months before he will be able to jump into a vehicle and drive it as his own.
A long time ago Bob and I decided that we wanted to help with the purchase of our boys' first cars, but we didn't want to GIVE it to them. We told the boys that whatever they had saved up for a purchase, we would double. So if they worked hard and saved 10k, we'd shop for a 20k vehicle. If they spent money on video games and crap and had only 2k to spend, they their car purchase budget was 4k. Fair enough...
Spencer got it in his head a few months ago that he wanted to start shopping around. The app LET GO has been his favorite place to browse. He's found some ridiculously cheap options - most of which didn't run - some of which had moss INSIDE them. We've talked about these, but not super seriously. Then he found this 1969 Chevy truck and he got more serious. He independently reached out to the owner to find out more. He did a TON of research about the truck and what might be necessary to fix it up.
He decided he wanted to go look at this thing in person so that he could decide if he really wanted to buy it. It has an engine, an improvement over some of the options. It does not have a seat. It doesn't currently run, although it does turn over. It is missing the ENTIRE truck bed.
He saw it. He kinda fell in love with it. He wanted it.
Now comes decision time for me and Bob. Do we let him do this. It's pretty risky... if he can't get it running, it's essentially like throwing away $4400 - half of which is ours. No one wants to throw away money.
But then we looked at the upside.
First, if it fails, then it's a relatively safe failure. If the boys aren't allowed to try and fail with the safety net of family behind them now, then when would they EVER be ready take a worthwhile risk. (This is not to say that we will change our minds and buy him a car if this doesn't work out. That's not on the table...)
Second, he's already proven that he can do the research required to figure out what to do. Can he actually, physically DO these things? No idea... we're about to find out. If he does learn these things, this is a whole new skill set that he's not going to get in any other way. It's a good opportunity, in other words, to build knowledge and skills that will likely come in handy for the rest of his life.
Third, if he succeeds and get the truck running, he will have built a great deal of confidence in himself and his abilities to work hard for something he wants. Because this is going to be hard work... that truck is a hot mess.
I'm honestly not sure why, exactly, he chose this route. His friends think he's crazy. Bob and I laid out the reality of the situation. And then he decided to do it anyway. And we're supporting this decision.
I'm sure some of you reading this will think we are insane for letting him make this purchase. It's a hassle, it's a risk, and at the end of the day, he may not have anything to drive - and we REALLY need another driver in the family.
But some of you may understand that this kind of decision, this kind of risk taking, this kind of unconventional facilitated training/learning, this kind of unconditional support is exactly what I want my kids to remember about how they were raised. It's exactly the kind of thing that we think is missing in today's society. Work hard - get rewarded - sometimes you win - sometimes you fail.
It's life. And it's ugly and hard. And it's beautiful.
Stay tuned for Truck updates over the next 15 months. :)