Thursday, April 1, 2010

Jibran is Growing Up, No Foolin'

Today is my stepson 13th birthday. While Jibran grew up detesting that his April Fools birthday provided everyone with a ready-made joke at his expense, he nonetheless woke up this morning officially a teenager. While I'm not sure this is much a deal to him, my wife, Ma'ikwe, has been leaking traces of anxiety about what the teenage years will bring.

Both of my kids—Ceilee (29) and Jo (22) went through this particular gate long ago, and while there was a certain amount of distancing from Dad's eyes and Mom's skirts (not that Ma'ikwe ever wears them, but you know what I mean) in and around this milepost, I don't look for Jibran to be rebellious in the Lord-of-the-Flies manner that is the heart of a mother's nightmares. He's a thoughtful, creative kid who's taste for autonomy matches well with Ma'ikwe's laissez faire parental style. (What's to rebel against?)

Jibran has been homeschooled most of his life (there were brief stints in a series of charter schools in Albuquerque, but none of them seemed to hold his interest), and it wasn't until this year that he's really gotten into the self-discipline of learning. Under the tutelage of Sharon Bagatell at Dancing Rabbit (his and Ma'ikwe's home) he and two other peers are thriving. Some of the other kids at DR go to public school; still others are going free lance, or "unschooled" in loose association with their parents. DR is nothing if not a poster child for educational eclecticism. The trick, of course, is finding what degree of structure and peer association works best for each kid.

Jibran has a close and rich connection with his father, Marqis, so my role as step-dad is more that of a readily available uncle (and confidant of his mother when she wants to chew on a parenting question). This is the fourth time I've been on hand for Jibran's birthday and my role has setled into that of dessert maker. The cheesecakes are cooling and the chocolate mousse is setting up under refrigeration as I type this, both en route to delivery for the ritual sugar buzz queued up for 4:30 this afternoon. This is to be followed by pizza and a movie. (If you do the dessert first, you eliminate the awkward possibility of over-consuming pizza to the point where the cheesecake & mousse cannot be properly enjoyed. This, I believe, evidences advanced strategic thinking.)

It's a measure of Jibran's burgeoning maturity that he's allowing the adults to pick the movie tonight, Julie and Julia, which is not exactly teen fare. Jibran, after all, is not just Ma'ikwe and Marqis' kid; he's also a community kid, and, fortunately, they learn pretty early that give and take is a better strategy than mine, mine, mine. Even on their birthday.

Ma'ikwe's mom, Kay, has joined us from Jackson MI for the celebration (and to enjoy the arrival of 80-degree weather in northeast Missouri and the increased livability in Ma'ikwe's new house). I am hopeful that we will all enjoy malted beverages with the pizza tonight and revel in the weather, the companionship of family, the delight of watching a movie about great food right after consuming it, and the miracle that children grow up.

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