This weekend Nico went on a backpacking retreat with our church’s youth group. He looked so grown up as he was leaving the house, loaded down with his new pack.
He’s 13. THIRTEEN! How did that happen? I still think of him as he looked when he was in kindergarten.
Now he’s in 8th grade and in the last year at the Catholic school he’s attended since kindergarten. He’s had a good experience at his Catholic school. He’s made some good friends and has become involved in activities that he enjoys. Nonetheless, it’s a small school and he’s been with the same kids since he was 5 years-old. The small class-size and familiar environment are comforting, but also a little stifling.
That’s why he enjoys the church youth group so much. The youth group is not affiliated with the same church at his school. Being involved in youth group has given him a chance to meet new people and make friends from different schools. When I saw him interacting with these new friends and the youth minister, I was surprised to see Nico acting so at ease, and engaged. I told the youth minister that I was surprised to see Nico behaving this way, since he was usually on the shy side. The youth minister told me that Nico wasn’t shy at all. In fact, quite the opposite. Nico typically participates in the conversation and even leads the discussion. Later, Nico and I were talking about it and he told me that he really likes being involved in youth group, because he can be who he wants to be. He doesn’t have to behave the way that his school classmates expect. In youth group, with new friends, he is able to re-invent himself, and be the “funny guy,” he could even be a leader. Wow. I was so amazed and impressed that this boy, this young man had such insight.
Later this weekend, Nico and I toured one of the private Catholic high schools in the area. Given Nico’s insight about himself, it should not have surprised me when he told me that this high school, which is a very popular choice among his current classmates, is not one of his top choices. Nico has his heart set on attending a high school nearer my workplace, about 45 minutes from home. That school is also the school that is least likely to attract many of his classmates, since it’s so far from our community and it is much bigger than the other private high schools in the area. Honestly, his top choice, is also mine. But, that school draws kids from all over greater Los Angeles, and has a very competitive environment. It makes me uneasy because that school may be too challenging, too unfamiliar for him. However, when I hear him speak with such conviction how he wants to attend that school, how strongly he feels like that school is the right fit for him, I know that I should trust him. He knows himself better than I do. After all he is 13. Thirteen.