Michael Gallagher

Michael Gallagher

The focus can be a little intense. Some have compared it to the otherwise comforting warmth of the sun channeled into a death ray through the lens of a magnifying glass pointed at the back of an unsuspecting ant.

So, yes, I am recalibrating now that Aidan has moved out and my onsite parenting is limited to 13-year-old Finn.

As any parent will tell you, “each kid is different.”

With Aidan I was saved by his capacity to be oblivious to most everything around him. For instance, I could email/text/instant messenger/Remind/TeamSnap/ClassDojo etc. his teachers to my heart’s content and he wouldn’t notice until a teacher would casually ask him. “Is your father, by chance, receiving the level of psychiatric care he so richly deserves?”

But Finn notices things, that’s kind of who he is.

I try not to emphasize this with Aidan, but I did learn a few things the first time through the lineup.

Here’s a sample discussion when Aidan was about 11 or 12 inadvertently captured on hidden microphones installed throughout the home strictly for archival purposes:

Me: “All I am asking is for you to do your best. Is that asking too much”

Aidan: “No, I guess not.”

Me: “And, I think we can agree that if you do your best you should not get any wrong on this test.”

Aidan: “Umm …”

Me: “If your best is perfection, then asking for perfection is not an unrealistic demand.” (Voice rising purely for dramatic presentation purposes.)

I’ve dialed it back a bit with Finn while not lowering my standards in any way — which only sounds like a contradiction when you say it out loud or write it on the page.

I intend to enjoy this gap year — a year without a kid in the high school. Nothing against Ellensburg High School — Aidan enjoyed his four years immensely — but the stakes and the cost of mistakes rise a bit when you consider that every grade, or test score, really, can change the course of a child’s life.

I know this from when I told Aidan to put his middle school spelling bee title on his resume, that colleges only really care about what a student does in high school.

I’m looking at Finn’s eighth-grade year as a shake-down cruise to get some focus on where he wants to go before he enters the Final Four.

Of course, none of this is going to fly with Finn so what I am really going to do is enjoy this year before he tells me to mind my own business.

At the risk of sounding like one of those free-range parenting acolytes, I guess Finn is a sentient being capable of being the captain of his own ship.

Maybe we’re teammates in a way, recognizing each other strengths while assisting in areas of weakness. That sounds nice, but I see the potential of me spending four years pouting on the bench.

Admittedly we were all-in on Aidan these past couple years to get him where he wanted to go for college and my Finn strategy may not be as developed as needed.

Luckily, Finn shows decent judgment. Any time I tell him he should not engage or experiment in any whatever risky behavior is the flavor of the day, he looks at me like I’m a complete idiot.

“Don’t worry, Dad, I’m not tempted to snort Smarties, engage in the eraser challenge, fire challenge, vaping in the boys room or anything else that pops up in your What to Fear Facebook feed,” Finn likes to say.

That’s a good base. We can build from there. Come back in five years and I’ll let you know how it went.

Contact managing editor Michael Gallagher at mgallagher@kvnews.com


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