When you want to write about your youngest child’s graduation from high school, it’s hard to avoid certain clichés such as (A) How are you going to deal with the imminent empty nest thing that seemed so far away 17 years ago? and (B) How did that kid grow up so fast?

When you want to write about your youngest child’s graduation from high school, it’s hard to avoid certain clichés such as (A) How are you going to deal with the imminent empty nest thing that seemed so far away 17 years ago? and (B) How did that kid grow up so fast?


But that’s how clichés become clichés — by being so true. As every parent can understand, it really does seem like just a short time ago that he was a baby in my arms ... albeit a very strong-willed baby.


The kid has always been a true individual who cannot be forced into anything. His stubbornness was apparent even before his birth, when despite the doctor physically placing him into the proper birth position, he repeatedly insisted on sitting feet-first.


I imagined him sitting tight in the womb, resolutely upright and determined to stay exactly where he was (and more than a little mad when I preempted his wishes and he was unceremoniously hauled out via C-section).


Neither sticks nor carrots could affect one of his decisions in the slightest. The most I could hope for was to occasionally trick him.


His determination to do all things his way on his own timetable was so strong that at one point I wondered if he might have learning disabilities. Testing revealed just the opposite. He turned out to be a bright kid who felt no obligation whatsoever to perform on my schedule. He would do things — and do them well — but he would do them when he was good and ready. I don’t think even beating him would have sped him up one moment.


When I was in despair over his seeming inability to recite the alphabet, I arranged for him to overhear me telling his sister that if he ever learned to sing the alphabet song I’d be so happy that we’d celebrate with a trip to Chuck E. Cheese. Immediately, he sang the whole song through. Previously, he would get bored around the letter C and drop the matter.


He has somehow managed to be stubborn and strong-willed without being rebellious or disrespectful. Knock on wood, I’ve never had any serious problems with the kid beyond things like his inclination to keep a messy room and his inability to remember orthodontist appointments.


His uniform of T-shirt, hoodie and baggy jeans with an iPod hanging out of his ear is the only typical teenage thing about him. He had no interest in learning to drive and put off getting his license as long as he could. He didn’t care about sports or any other activities. He even skipped prom. He has his own priorities and makes his own choices.


So I was surprised when the metamorphosis took place.


He had suggested that for graduation, wearing the plain black pants provided for his fast-food job would be a great way to save a few bucks. I nixed that idea, partly because said pants are permanently impregnated with the smell of hamburgers and fries, and partly for the same reasons any mother would put her foot down on that one.


Knowing the kid’s dislike of anything tailored, I figured it would be a battle of wills to leave the store with dress pants, a nice shirt and a tie.


We went shopping, and much to his regret, I led him through the casual racks over to career wear. That’s when he spied the suits.


He wandered away from me and ran his hand down a suit jacket. “These pinstripes are pretty snazzy,” he said. He put it on, over the T-shirt he was swimming in because it actually belongs to my husband. (Up to now, the kid has cared so little about clothes that it was pretty much irrelevant to him whether a shirt belonged to him or any other male.)


“Fancy,” he said.


I still couldn’t believe he would actually voluntarily decide to wear a suit, but then a striking red tie got his attention, and then a very nice gray shirt. Before I knew what was happening, he was in the dressing room and when he came out, my boy was gone and in his place was a young man I’d never met before.


I was probably the only one in the store who heard the ZZ Top song “Sharp Dressed Man” begin playing, but a grandfatherly man looked over at us and asked me, “First suit?” I nodded.


I don’t know if his decision to wear a suit for graduation was a gift to me, or if he was simply ready to look the part of a grown-up (if only for a few hours). I’d like to think it might be the former, but all evidence points toward the latter. Either way, I had the same sort of reaction I felt when my daughter bought her first prom dress and transformed into the princess I had always known she was.


Here was the kid that I knew to be smart and capable but seemed to be taking his sweet time growing up, all grown up and looking like he might be ready to start a new job as bank president right away.


He ignored my suggestion that he leave the jacket off during the ceremony to avoid roasting in the 90-degree weather. He resolutely wore the whole ensemble.


He’s back in his T-shirts now, and that’s OK, because now I know that when it counts, he can and will step into grown-up roles — which probably means he really will move out of my house in a few years.


I’m still reminding myself that that’s a good thing.


Michelle Teheux may be reached at mteheux@pekintimes.com.