Monday, May 28, 2012

What might the future hold?

Proverbs 10:1 (NIV)

A wise son brings joy to his father,
   but a foolish son brings grief to his mother.
Today Jack once again demonstrated his ability to create and squeak through the tiniest of loopholes. I can’t remember how it started, but I was giving him a mild amount of grief based on his habit for hating just about everything. If he is mildly displeased with anything (or anyone), hate is the main word he uses to voice his opinion. He claims to “hate” things we know he enjoys (such as Sunday school, which he always leaves happy, or certain foods we know he likes, which he’ll eat once we refuse to cater to his specific request), and he also is quick to accuse us of hating him for a variety of offenses, such as asking him to put his shoes on so we can leave the house or suggesting he use the toilet before bed.

So when I said, “Come on, Jack, you hate everything,” he was quick to correct me. “Not everything. I love hating things.” It’s no wonder we often presume he might have a future as a defense attorney. It’s also no wonder this proverb makes me chuckle — because a wise son can bring plenty of grief to his parents, too. Though, ostensibly, such grief is light-hearted in nature and not the kind of heavy grief that burdens the parents of children who can’t find their way.

I think about these kind of interactions as I wonder how the next decade will play itself out. Jack has tried to be sneaky on several occasions (mostly minor infractions such as eating food in a place he wasn’t allowed to eat or when he wasn’t supposed to be eating at all), though we did have one occasion where he attempted to sneak his portable video game player into his backpack and onto the bus, a clear violation of stated house rules.

Yet as far as I know, pretty much every time he’s tried to put one over on us, he’s been completely incompetent. He’s either in plain sight when he thinks he’s conducting a covert operation, or he leaves such blatant clues at every turn that there’s practically no parental sleuthing required.

One of the quirks of our house is the ability to hear everything from everywhere. When the garage door opens you can feel it in the playroom and hear throughout the structure (which is how Charlie always know when Kristie comes home). Also plainly audible no matter your location are when a door shuts — any door — and when someone turns on the light (and the connected exhaust fan) in the main floor bathroom. That fan is my signal Jack is up and about in the morning, and it assures me I won’t have to drag him out of bed to get him on the school bus. When I was sick for a few days in January, I was reminded that every sound from the basement (in that instance a rousing game of New Super Mario Bros. for the Wii) travels through the ductwork to be heard clear as day in the comfort of our second-floor bedroom.

And though perhaps our energy bills would benefit from the addition of a good deal of insulation, I’m convinced this ability to hear everything everywhere is going to come in handy when the boys are older and interested in attempting transgressions slightly more serious than squirreling away a few bags of fruit snacks or pounding down Skittles before breakfast.

(Side note: None of this helped me a few winters ago in the pre-Charlie days. I returned from playing basketball on a Tuesday about 9:15 p.m. Kristie had gotten Jack and Max to bed and (I think she was pregnant at the time) crashed early herself. I’d not reclaimed my key from the cat sitter, which means although I opened the garage, I could not unlock the front door or the pedestrian door into the kitchen, which usually is locked by the last person to go to bed. I called Kristie’s cell phone and the house phone a few times, then gave up and went to sleep in my car until she finally came looking for me in the middle of the night. So perhaps this “I will hear everything the boys do when they’re nefarious teenagers” gambit is not without its flaws.)

All of this projection, of course, is primarily centered on Jack because he’s got a four-year head start on developing a personality. Max is nothing if not his own person, but there’s a big difference between a preschooler and second-grader in terms of seeing the curtain raised on what the preteen years might be like. At almost 16 months, Charlie is animated, engaging, opinionated and vocal (if not verbal), but he’ll change countless times in the next few months, let alone years. And we try not to waste too much time on such future guessing games less we miss out on the here and now.

But it’s fun to dream. As long as we continue to agree to let the kids seek their own paths, rather than “guide” them toward what we would prefer or what we think might be best, then all we’re doing is the same thing parents everywhere do: look at these tiny little people we created, people whom we know inside at out — and, especially with the younger ones, better than they even know themselves — and daydream about the endless possibilities. It’s one of the unmitigated joys of parenthood, and I highly recommend it.

A prayer for May 28:

Lord, I thank you for not just the chance to be a father to my sons, but to get to know them as people. I so enjoy seeing their personalities unfold as they grow and mature, and I thank you for investing in me the responsibility to help shape them. I pray that your will for them be realized, and ask you to use me as you see fit to help them live lives worthy of you. Amen.

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