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  • Growing Up "Normal"

    I stood on the corner of 8th Avenue and 48th Street in Manhattan this week and my son said goodbye.

    “See ya, Dad,” Ben said, his backpack filled with school supplies. “Gotta go. I’m good.”

    The “I’m good” was 7th grade code for “You don’t need to walk me to the front door of school anymore” — a transitional moment that makes me vaguely uncomfortable as a parent and proud at the same time.

    The day before, in Virginia, Jill saw Kate and Emma off on their respective buses — they’re going to different middle schools — and said she felt the same set of conflicting emotions.

    This is “normal,” I guess. A normal moment in what feels like, at times, an abnormal life.

    As a child, I went to the same elementary school for five years, the same middle school for three, and the same high school for four. I was raised in the same house that my parents lived in until my father died.

    Today, I’m a parent with four kids in four schools in three states. Nicholas is a senior — gulp — driving himself to school in North Carolina. Kate and Emma are in 8th and 7th grade, respectively, still jumping on the bus. And then there’s Ben.

    Last year at this time, he was our “Little Boy,” having moved to New York to play that role in “Ragtime.” This year, he’s “Tall Boy” in “Billy Elliott,” having booked his second Broadway show in just nine months.

    While he’s still small for his age, the image of me standing on that street corner watching him walk the last 100 yards to school is a vivid reminder that he is growing up.

    And fortunately for us, when he says “I’m good,” I know what he means.