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Learning to let kids take charge

There are sweet moments parents wish to retain forever. Yet trying to locate a scrap of paper and pen in the middle of bath time is not always feasible. Funny expressions and mispronunciations are priceless nuggets of childhood, gone in a blink.

“I won’t ever forget this,” parents tell themselves.

The sad truth? Most moms and dads leak brains. Somewhere between expecting a baby and surviving four seasons of tee-ball, I forgot not only precious memories, but also my phone number, age, and where I last put the car keys.

Despite this unnerving progression towards senility, one twinkling instant in time from my early years as a mom remains bright.

My first son, Danny, was not yet 2. We were downtown in our cramped condo with two babies. After a long work day, I came home to find not a scoop of formula left. Aggravated, I prepared to head out to the nearest Walgreens. It was a dark and snowy winter night in Chicago, and I muttered unhappily while bundling up.

It was then I spotted Danny tugging at his coat, advising:

“I go too!”

We walked toward the elevator and Danny ran ahead to press the down button. Once inside, he also knew which button delivered us directly to the lobby.

It was practically a blizzard outside, but my little boy forged ahead with brazen confidence while grabbing my hand to lead the way.

Covered in snow, Danny pushed through the rotating doors at Walgreens with surprising strength. I was still dusting myself off as he hustled over to the baby aisle, locating the correct container in seconds for his infant brother.

“I find it, Mommy! I find it!”

Danny insisted on carrying the plastic bag home. Then there came the moment that defined my child forever in my heart.

Danny looked up at me and smiled the most dazzling smile I have ever seen.

The kid had been harboring a secret wish to be 40 years old from the time he was born, and he finally had his crack at adulthood.

When he was 3, Danny’s preschool teachers never kept track in games because Danny always knew whose turn it was. At 4, he was anxious for income and drew up a marketing plan for his lemonade stand.

By 5, he peppered us with questions on investment banking.

Recently, a friend shared a story about her son, now grown. The boy had a history of putting neighbors into heart failure.

The kid liked climbing onto roofs.

And then jumping off them.

My friend laughed heartily at the recollection and finally delivered the punch line.

Because now?

That boy is paratrooper for the U.S. Army.

As parents, we pretend we have some huge say into who our kids become. Hearing that story and remembering my own Alex P. Keaton, I understand kids are born with personality traits as pre-determined and fixed as their fingerprints.

Danny? He is always going to want to be in charge.

One day, I will actually let him.

And I cannot wait to see that brilliant smile once again.

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