Thursday, June 16, 2011
They Turned into Pretty Cool Adults
I have two sons, born eight years apart. There’s a reason for that, of course. The first one was rather, uh, four-on-the-floor full-steam-head rocket man and at times it seemed we were hanging on to his vapor trail.
We were rather scholarly types, a couple who liked museums, art, the botanical garden, the symphony. Our firstborn liked baseball, football, hockey, soccer, basketball, golf – anything that involved the phrase “competitive sport.” I didn’t even try to teach him how to play sports. He just knew. And he was better than any of the adults in the neighborhood.
But we did eventually have a second one, also a son, which was not a surprise. My family is into sons big time. I have two brothers. My older brother has two boys and my younger brother has three boys. I do have a half-sister from my father’s first marriage. She has two boys. I have two boys. We’re besotted with boys.
Our second-born had colic for the first six months of his life. Bad colic. Really bad colic. I don’t think either of us slept for those six months. I know our son didn’t. He grew out of it, but he was almost the antithesis of his brother’s exuberance, rather shy and quiet, except he liked sports, too, especially basketball and soccer.
Their upbringings were not unusual. The regular childhood diseases. Little League games. Basketball games. School stuff. Church stuff. It wasn’t Leave-It-To-Beaver stereotyped but I can’t say it was radically off of that (except I didn’t wear a smoking jacket and tie at home, and I never saw my wife vacuuming in a dress and wearing pearls). There were times, of course, when they’d do things that if you disciplined them as they deserved you’d be arrested for homicide. But all kids have those moments.
Now I have two grown sons. The oldest is married and has produced, with some help from his wife, our grandson. The youngest graduated from college last year and is gainfully employed, trying to come to grips with the realities of the working world. Despite the eight years difference in their ages, they are close.
And I think about what they have taught me.
Once you become a father, you’re a father forever. You’re never not a father. How you’re a father changes; you have to bite your tongue a lot as your children get older, because you want to tell them what they should do or not do or how to raise the grandson or a dozen other things. But you bite your tongue because they’re adults now.
A lot of being a father is just being there. It’s not necessarily doing anything; it’s just being there. You sit through thousands of sports activities because you need to be there. They would die if you shouted something too loud during a game, but they need you to be there. Your presence tells them you think they’re important.
Being a father is a constant dose of humility. Your children, especially when they’re young, think you know everything and can do everything. And they’re wrong. But you're a kind of God figure, at least until they hit their teen years and you suddenly become stupid. And then they reach their 20s and you start to get smart again, but it’s a different kind of smart. They know you’re not infallible, but they’ve begun to figure out you’ve gone through a lot of what they’re going through.
Sometimes they call simply because they need to talk something out. You don’t have to say anything, or say much. You just need to listen.
We worried about both of our kids, and worried a lot. Now they’re grown, gainfully employed, started to create lives for themselves.
There were a lot of tense moments, and a lot of doubts, but my two sons have turned into pretty cool adults.
To see more posts on Father’s Day, please visit Bonnie Gray at Faith Barista.
Top photograph: Our oldest, Travis. Lower photograph: Our youngest, Andrew, holding his nephew Cameron.