Tuesday, August 7, 2012
Boy at 17
Today is my son's 17th birthday. From babyhood on he has always been a remarkably even keeled and thoughtful person. Even as a small baby he was wide eyed and alert to everything around him. One of his great aunts pronounced him "an old soul. You can tell he's been here before". He barely spoke till he was 2, then he used adult words and complete sentences. Like most kids he would climb things he shouldn't, but he's the only child I ever saw who tested the the next step before he put his full weight on it. He decided early on he didn't like the taste o f meat, rejecting it even as a baby, and was effectively a vegetarian by the time he started school.
At 6 he was a remarkably sweet tempered and logical child, and were he not drawn to tormenting his little sister he might have never gotten into trouble. He did have a stubborn streak, and at times an exaggerated sense of right and wrong--especially resenting times when (in his eyes) the adults in his life (teachers, coaches, youth leaders, as well as parents) changed the rules they had laid down. He loved Legos, K-nex, and any other sort of construction toy, I distinctly remember him, at about 8, displaying a Lego boat that was, he said, an attempt to rebuild the Titanic so it wouldn't sink. He also developed a strong sense of history, both the collecting of historic facts and figures, and the ability to put himself in a time and place and feel what it was like to be there. (Many years attendance at the Pennsic Wars probably helped here, not to mention all the historic sites I dragged the kids to.)
Not surprisingly he was drawn to both baseball, the sport most obsessed with fairness and record keeping; and also to Scouting with its idealistic 12 point program of what boys and men should be (trustworthy, loyal, helpful, etc).
We learned early he was calm and level headed in a crisis--when his dad cut his hand in the kitchen he went for the first aid kit. When the dog had puppies under the porch and wouldn't let the adults help her, he climbed under the porch, calmed her down and handed the puppies out one by one, then got her to come out. When his little sister was knocked down on the playground while he was a monitor he chewed out the kids who did it, then took her to the school office.
For the most part he has continued as he began. Even the inevitable teenage headbutting passes fairly quickly.He still tends to see things in black and white and miss the shades of grey, but hopefully that will come with maturity and more experience of the world.
On a recent Sunday morning he stood in the kitchen with us before heading out to another week of camp. As he talked about his plans for his senior year, and for college, I admired his self assuredness, so much stronger than mine at that age, and thought to myself, as he went out the door: You are all right, Son. I like the man you are turning out to be.