We have just spent a weekend in New York City with our son and his family of five. We have been celebrating a big event in our family and spent Saturday doing some touristy stuff (Empire State Building) and some city-native stuff (Bryant Park to watch the jugglers practice and to play board games [available free of charge]). We had a wonderful celebratory dinner together and now it is Sunday morning. We are heading to New Jersey's Red Bull Arena in Newark. Our son has gotten the seven of us tickets to the U.S. mens team vs Turkey soccer game--a warm up to the World Cup.
It's there that we are witness to a transition in our grandson's life and the life of my son's family. Our tickets are part of a big block of tickets that our grandon's soccer team had access to. We are standing near one of the entry gates to the stadium, waiting for it to open so we can go in--we arrived early to avoid the worst of the crowds. Our grandson spies his teammates arriving en masse right in front of us. He runs over to join them. He is no longer the little boy in the nuclear family [he just turned 13]; now he's one of the "guys." We can see how happy he is to be part of the group, how he is learning how to maneuver within the group, testing his social skills. As the gates open, he moves forward with his team members to enter the stadium. But his dad has his ticket.
He runs back to get a ticket, but our son says no. Actually, we don't hear the conversation but it is clear our son told his son that he should stick with his family to go into the stadium. Our grandson is fighting back tears. He so wants to join his friends. And we, his grandparents, so want him to. We feel for him. We don't know why our son has said no. Maybe he wants to be sure he knows where everyone is once we're inside--the crowd is huge, the seating arrangements unknown. Maybe he tells his son that he can rejoin his friends when he gets in and he has assessed the seating situation. Or maybe, as my daughter-in-law told me earlier, her husband and my son believes his children will always prefer to be with their parents. (She has suggested to him that, come adolescence, he is in for a big surprise.)
As we trudge into the stadium and up the long flight of stairs to our seats, I tell Paterfamilias how I wish our son had let our grandson go into the stadium with his teammates. PF agrees but reminds me of my own words of wisdom: "We can't tell them how to raise their kids."
All's well that ends well. We are seated in a huge block of three rows. No one in the group sits in their assigned seats. The boys, including our grandson, take over one row. Our family--now six of us--grab seats behind them along with other parents and siblings. I watch as our grandson toggles back and forth between friends and family. He goes out to buy a hot dog with his friends. Later, he takes his 6-year-old sister with him to buy a bottle of water. He is working both sides, with grace. We are there to witness his transition from family as the center of his world to friends as the social core of the next phase of his life. We keep mum as we watch his parents--our children--maneuver the minefield.