Ah... Child 2.
Does Senioritis translate? The strange illness that besets students towards the end of their studies - lack of motivation, general malaise, marked antipathy to the school/teachers/administration/school system/evil parents who have put them in this situation? Maybe it's an Americanism but I'm going to bet that the disease is universal.
Child 2 had it last year.
Had it bad.
Had it so bad its fingernails itched with it, it's skin crawled at the very thought of studying.
Which, what with the kinda, sorta need to... I don't know... TURN THINGS IN... produced a bit of angst. In fact, the last semester of Child 2's high school career was, erm, tense.
I would be the lowest sort of hypocrite if I didn't say at once that I behaved eggzackly the same way my senior year, flitting through classes, ignoring little things like attendance and assignments and the simple need to PASS in order to graduate. There was, however, one rather startling difference.
Child 2, apparently for a number of months, had been giving serious thought and consideration to What Happens Next. I was more of the 'neener-neener, I can't hear you' school of thought and blithely ignored little things like college admissions or employment.
University, it reasoned, was something it was not yet ready for. Employment with only a high-school diploma and a set of skills heavy on the rhetorical side but light on the practical, was going to be an issue. Child knew it was facing a year or two of minimum wage jobs that were, however necessary, likely to be menial and unfufilling.
But, and here's the bit that really amazes me, Child didn't stop there, the obvious stopping place which would have resulted in three weeks of sulking and then a scramble to land a fry cook spot at the Greasy Pit down the road. It wanted to do something to earn its way into university, to actually learn some reasonable skills and get some valuable experience AND it wanted a job that would, in its own words, be something important, something meaningful.
Does anyone see where this is going? Because I didn't. It's obvious now, but at the time, and knowing Child 2? Nope, totally blindsided me.
It went to talk to the military recruiters.
Which meant it had to take the basic entrance exam, the one everyone has to take, the one that neatly sorts people into job categories. Now, this isn't the most difficult test in the world, but it does include two sections that Child is, sadly, not terribly qualified to take: automotivey stuff and practical engineery type stuff. The rest is easy peasy maths and reading comp and things. And Child? The Child who wasn't, apparently, up to the difficult task of writing up a two paragraph response to a short story?
Child got a perfect score. Didn't miss a thing - not even the bits that asked about throttles and spark plugs and widgets and things. I have no idea how it pulled it off.
So the recruiters's eyes got all misty and shiny and I forcibly pulled Child into each and every office (talk to them ALL and see who has the best offer) and it was agreed that basically the military would be delighted to have Child doing any job - any job at all that it wanted.
What it wanted was to learn a language and go through the rather rigorous school in Monterey. Which meant another exam, far more difficult, and another extremely impressive result, and while I'm sort of flapping my hands aimlessly and bleating, 'but you don't HAVE to do anything if you don't want to...' Child is calmly and steadily qualifying itself to do exactly what it wants.
Which is why, exactly one week before Child 1 left for its road trip, we all went downtown to the same building where I said goodbye to Kirk over 20 years before and Child, a little pale but confident and determined, stood in a little room and took an oath. And then it flew away.
By choice, right now in Texas, it's facing some of the things it has struggled with terribly in the last year: it will be doing new things under pressure, strangers will be scrutenizing its every move, it will have no privacy, no quiet time, no escape. Before it left I pushed it to run every day, to do push ups and sit ups and anything else I could think of that might arm it just a little bit for what is to come, both of us worrying far more about all the things it couldn't prepare itself for.
It's called twice now, sounding miles and miles away. The run is doing okay, it says, the push ups and sit ups coming easily now. It boasted a bit about being toned and in shape, joked that the only muscles out of use would be for smiling. The words tumbled out though, about how it had been made dorm chief and was responsible for a gaggle of other recruits, about how it worried about them, fussed over them, folded their socks and gave them pep talks. It spoke about how it had learned that if you hate failure you have to figure out how to do things right. It sounded confident, older... different.
It's strange to have this Child, this Child who put off growing up for so very long, suddenly running so far ahead of me. It's strange to know that there are things now, and will always be, that I can't share anymore, that I will have to be an outsider to.
It's strange, but it's wonderful too.