Parent of an adult

TRAVERSE CITY — There’s this profoundly odd moment as a parent where you look at your kid and see — as improbable as this may seem — an adult.

Suddenly, he’s not the toddler who peevishly swatted the rump of a well-dressed society lady who unwisely stepped between him and the tubs of ice cream in a display case. (In his defense, she deserved it. He was deep into a critical decision — Blue Moon or Superman — and she, frankly, interrupted the deliberative process. Some things you just do not do.)

He’s not the 12-year-old who whizzed around the Washington D.C. zoo like a crazed top after having his first half cup of coffee. (If you’ve ever seen Sheldon on “Big Bang Theory” when he’s pretending to be the Flash, it was kinda like that. Zoom, zoom!)

He’s not the teenager who carpeted the floor of his room with clothes, books and Doritos bags, nor the college kid whose bathroom was declared an EPA Superfund site.

He’s not even the kind, intelligent, handsome, bewhiskered guy you gazed at through teary eyes at graduation after graduation.

No, out of nowhere, he’s this 25-year-old pupa-turned-man, and as a parent you can’t help but think, “When the hell did that happen?”

His name is Sam. I’ve written about him before. He’s a defense attorney now in a town far, far away, and last week he had his first trial. It happened to be a case that caught the public’s eye, meaning it also caught the local media’s eye, meaning I got to see a 5-second news clip online of Sam making his central argument.

The lovely yet formidable Marcia and I replayed the clip over and over again. What struck us both is that he looked and sounded like … a lawyer.

A real lawyer.

A good lawyer.

A lawyer who had gone to law school and learned all sorts of fancy legal stuff.

And now he’s in a courtroom pleading a case before a judge and jury?

I’m sorry, that cannot be possible. This is a kid who used to hide his brother’s Chucky doll (you know, from the horror movie) in his sister’s closet to scare her. Whose favorite dinosaur wasn’t a T-Rex but something called a “pachycephalosaurus.” Who, as a toddler, responded to most parental direction by asking “Why?” (Example: “Because we said so.” “Why?” “Because we’re your parents and we know best.” “Why?” “Never mind why! Just go to bed!”)

That kid can’t suddenly be an attorney. He can’t be sparring with other lawyers and saying, “I object!” That’s the kind of thing – I don’t know – Perry Mason does (millennials, look him up), and Perry Mason was most definitely a grown-up.

That’s the parenting paradox: You raise them to be grown-ups – kind, loving, intelligent, thoughtful grown-ups – but you forever see them as kids.

It used to bug me when my mom would do that to me.

It doesn’t any longer.

Go figure, huh?

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Andrew Heller, an award-winning newspaper columnist, appears weekly in the Daily Press. He graduated from Escanaba Area High School in 1979. Follow him at andrewheller.com and on Facebook and Twitter. Write to him at andrewhellercolumn@gmail.com.