We had an inkling that the Big Kid would not be in need of a "helicopter parent" when Radio Disney stuck it to him at Mayfest.
A shiny-faced RD intern handed him a swag bag, and as we were walking out of the fenced-in RD enclosure, my then seven-year-old surveyed the contents and discovered that he had been shorted by a couple of promotional geegaws, relative to what his friends had received. Instead of whining or bursting into tears ("Moooooooom, everyone else got TWO bumper stickers [that we will never stick on anything, because you aren't that into Radio Disney, and so Mom will throw them away when you aren't looking] and a Mickey-shaped squeeze ball [which will also mysteriously disappear], and I only got ONE bumper sticker [that Mom is totally going to throw away - count on it]"), he stopped in his tracks, said, "Excuse me, I have to go back," and next thing I know my kid is at the giveaway stand, politely explaining that HIS SWAG BAG WAS DEFECTIVE AND EITHER NEEDED TO BE SUPPLEMENTED OR REPLACED. RD Intern looked somewhat shocked to be dealing with a small child with a firm grasp of customer service protocol and glanced over to me.
I just shrugged.
Since then, Big Kid's nickname has become "Cher Horowitz," after the Alicia Silverstone character in "Clueless" who wouldn't show her attorney father her report card because "some teachers are trying to low-ball me, Daddy. And I know how you
say, 'Never accept a first offer,' so I figure these grades are just a
jumping off point to start negotiations." Big Kid's worldview seems to be that all guidelines are flexible, which bugs the ever-loving crud out of his parents, and what bugs us even more is that HIS TEACHERS DRINK THE KOOL-AID AND AGREE WITH HIM, but at least he does his own dirty work and doesn't come crying to Mom and Dad, asking us to intervene on his behalf.
On the more positive side, he didn't break his stride when we enrolled him in a magnet program for middle school. Final selection of a campus was his, but the decision not to remain at the home campus in any event was parent-fueled, and we worried that he would be morose about having to leave his friends, with good reason: middle school's hard enough without having to start fresh, you know? But Mr. Independent took to his new school like a duck to water, and happily claimed the pond as his own. His other elementary school friends who had opted for magnet programs? Not so much. By the end of sixth grade, all of them had migrated back to the home campus, and in a bout of word vomit one day, I asked him: was he upset that the proverbial band was getting back together? "Nah. I think it's pretty cool that I'm the only one who tried something new and stuck with it. And I'm happy that I did something different - it's a great school. I have made a ton of new friends, and I'll see the old ones when I get to high school."
Except . . . now that high school is fast approaching, he is wavering. On some levels, he loves the idea of the home campus: it's a great school with great traditions, he will know a ton of people, and joining the swim team will be pretty seamless, since it's basically his summer swim team with a couple of additions. But then, completely on his own, he decided that there would be some benefit to enrolling in another magnet, geared towards either engineering or architecture. At the district's "Choices Expo" last weekend (which Big Kid was supposed to be attending as a representative of his middle school campus, but he ended up spending a good bit of time interviewing high schools, completely on his own), he winnowed the available magnet options down to one - a blended engineering/architecture program (giving him more opportunities to find his groove before college, because he's not sure which direction he wants to go) at a campus with a fabulous swim program. When I suggested that, maybe, just going to high school is okay, and it's not strictly necessary to specialize - particularly when specializing would mean starting over with new friends once again - the answer I got was, "Mom - I wouldn't have suggested it if I wasn't up for it. ALL of it. My old friends will still be old friends. I'll see them at church and swim meets and stuff, and I'll get to make new friends again."
He's turning 14 in a week, and I'm still waiting for his awkward/maladjusted phase to begin. And it occurs to me that that wait may be open-ended. Kid's not perfect, but he's ridiculously grounded and self-confident without being smug. And I have no idea how that happened, because I really don't think that Spouse and I are that good at being parents. Gotta give credit to the kid himself.
And thinking that maybe we can go ahead and transfer the "purchase a helicopter" budget to "college - general" on our balance sheet, once and for all.