Do you notice with the passing of each season, how your child matures and grows? Children seemingly morph before our eyes. During that first year of life, they go from being helpless infants to chubby tots beginning to talk and walk. With each subsequent year comes more and more mastery of an array of skills. The strides children make over the course of their childhood is nothing short of remarkable.
And each step takes them closer to the ultimate goal: gaining independence from us. So with the ebbing of summer, I always find myself reflecting on my son’s own milestones. This spring for example, Evan received his driver’s license and started taking himself to school for the first time. He can do laundry and cook a meal if he needs. And now I can count on him to get to and from orthodonic appointments if I’m tied up at work.
Most importantly, I see how these passages help move my teen towards more independence from me. Now at 16, I hear him talking on occasion about life beyond home. That might explain why the Man Cave suddenly reappeared.
The original decision to transform his bedroom took place early last summer with an announcement he left in a breathless message on my cell phone.
“I, Evan Schneider, am a total genius...” it began. I’ve still got it saved because I love how incredulous and proud he sounds. I was at the Orpheum the night of the call, so it was during intermission that I listened to his brief explanation. His curious message, some of which I couldn’t quite decipher beyond, “I’ve really created something big,” hardly prepared me for what I would find when I returned home.
As I walked into his bedroom, I discovered a loft, constructed of scraps of lumber he’d scavenged from the garage. I was truly impressed with his vision. He had built a one-story structure, large enough to house his queen-sized mattress, which he hefted onto the bunk above, and a room below tall enough to stand in. The Man Cave, as it would later be called, wound up becoming a clubhouse of sorts, a place where he and his friends could congregate to play X-box or just chillax. As the summer progressed, it gradually became festooned with twinkle lights and sheets, my son’s giant indoor fort.
Of course, he eventually grew tired of the arrangement and so dismantled it later that fall without a second thought. He disposed of the lumber, cleaned up the mess, and returned his bedroom to the conventional set-up he’d had before.
That being said, I guess I shouldn’t have been too surprised when, in early July, I arrived home to spy my son with a power saw in hand. It was that time again. His friend Richard, an artist in his own right, had come over and the two were hotly debating plans for the Man Cave 2. In unfurling this year’s version, I could tell what my son really had in mind was to morph his bedroom into something of a mini-bachelor pad.
“It’s going to be the perfect place to hang out with my friends,” he told me that afternoon. “I’m going to have a mini-fridge in there and a disco ball with lights. It’s gonna be cool.” With that, he and Richard got busy. It turns out that Evan learned a lot from building his first loft, evidenced by the new structure which is more thoroughly conceived. He reinforced the legs by nailing together 2-by-4s, creating a stronger framework. And this time, the upper bunk is stable enough to sleep two. In the lower room, he built a table where his computer and iPod player reside. And one afternoon, like Tom Sawyer, he enlisted the help of two friends to whitewash the table while he stood by admiring the operation. To round out the rest of the room, he’s incorporated a stand for his TV, an easy chair, and an ottoman. And of course, the disco ball. Not one, but two, no less.
All of this enterprise has made him the envy of his friends. Richard enlisted his father’s help to build a man cave of his own. And last I heard, the girlfriend was on the list of people who might be enriched by my son’s handiwork. The mini-fridge hasn’t arrived, yet, but no matter. I can see my son has his eyes on the future. And someday, that milestone of moving out and into a place of his own will come to be. Man Cave 2 is just the beginning.