Giving a teen room to bloom

When my son came home from the mall a few months ago and tossed me a black T-shirt with the words "stage crew" printed in bright-white letters across the back, he wasn't advancing some inside joke.

That shirt would become my Saturday-night uniform.

At 14, Andrew is a mobile DJ on the rise, inspired a couple of years back by an accomplished older cousin who now, while a full-time college student, plays high school proms, books out-of-state gigs, puts friends on his payroll, and hauls thousands of dollars worth of gear in a custom-outfitted trailer.

At our house, we still have to yank the rear seats out of the minivan to fit the 85-pound speakers, strobe lights, fog machine, mixer, amplifier, crates of CDs....

There are plenty of hitches.

We've been known to pull a hairy U-turn for a forgotten light truss or a box of business cards. At one job, we emptied the building after we went too heavy on the fog and tripped an aging smoke alarm. (The water-based effect doesn't set off more modern ones.)

But after about a dozen jobs – several for charity, most for pay – the kid has come remarkably far.

In the early days, I had to play business manager as well as roadie.

He still needs guidance. But now I hear him out on the deck with the cordless phone, speaking with a confident voice to a woman who's planning a party for her mom – or to someone from his old elementary school who wants four free hours of happy tunes for a Family Day event. (He's sure to oblige.)

I know Andrew can mow a lawn, paint a fence, babysit (if pressed). But when I watch him run a show, or just labor over a playlist, I'm glad he also feels driven to create. Many young teens have that fire.

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