Saturday, October 1, 2011

Boys to Men

There comes a time in every parent’s life I suppose, when your kids grow past you in some important ways. If you know me at all, or if you have read many of my posts, then you know that Heidi and I have two boys sons. I’d better get over the boys part, huh? Devin is 19 and Colin just turned 18.

I don’t mean for this to be a “Gee, doesn’t-time-fly-when-we’re-having-fun?” post. But I do have this very strong feeling of “Where-does-the-time-go?”

We have this big empty lot across the road from where we live. We’ve always called it the meadow. There is a short piece of fencing there set up as a little league backstop and a weedy pitcher’s mound. The whole area, maybe a couple acres, is surrounded on two sides by the road and two sides by dense vine filled forest.

When the boys were little and we would get home from school together, that field was often our play area. We played baseball, although that was a short-lived occupation. Sometimes we played frisbee. For a while we played this silly made up version of football where one of us would throw up the ball and someone would catch it and run away with the others chasing.We’d all come tumbling to the ground in a mass tackle only to get up and do it again. We played something similar when I was a kid called “Cream The Kid With The Ball”, or simply “Cream The Kid”.

Sometimes we’d go to the meadow to catch bugs with a big butterfly net or just our hands. Sometimes we’d bring a jar and take the bugs to school to study or feed our classroom pet turtle, Angelo.

One of my favorite games was our version of soccer. The boys were from about Kindergarten to 3rd or 4th grade. It was the two of them against me. I scored by kicking the ball into the short backstop fence. The boys scored by kicking it anywhere into the big wide forest. They had hundreds of feet of goal while I just had about ten.

When kids are little they think of their parents as superhuman. I thought that about my own father. I watched him put an engine in a car once. I helped him build a room off of our basement. He could do anything he wanted to. He wrestled with my two older brothers and me on his Saturday morning bed from time to time, just as I wrestled with our two boys when they were young.

Time The Conqueror catches up to all of us, right? When Devin was 12 he commandeered my little weight bench and started training. Soon it wasn’t good enough and he got a newer one with brackets so he could bench press in earnest. I could lift twice as much as he could. But with relentless training he could outlift me before long. I was too busy at work to train, I’ve got arthritis in my shoulders, and … [whine, whine, whine] the ball took a bad hop and the sun was in my eyes and…

Nope. Not really. Devin got stronger. He became a young man right before my eyes. Last weekend he was washing his car outside with his shirt off. He said, “Dad, check this out,” and he puffed out his lats and did one of those “We’re here to pump you up!” poses that muscle guys do in magazines. He has gotten huge and defined and, frankly, he could take me with one hand tied behind his back.

Colin started playing music when he was really little. He had lots of toy instruments that really worked like bongos, a Little Tykes piano with colored keys, a cool steel drum with eight tones, and a little bamboo xylophone. When he was in third grade he wanted to try drum lessons. I didn’t think they would take. But we went to the music store and then to his instructor’s studio for about five years. When he began he had no real rhythm, he kept speeding up and slowing down.But gradually, with countless hours of practice, he got better and better.

The neighbors were very patient with us for Colin’s room over the garage faces the road and, even with his window closed, they were treated to hour after hour of his practice exercises, and then his drumming to songs while he wore his headphones. Of course they didn’t have the benefit of any of the other instruments.

About three years ago he took up guitar, borrowing one of Devin’s or mine. He studied keyboarding in school and learned theory, which he applied to his playing. Then he started writing songs. Complex melodies and chord structures and alternative tunings. He plays in a band with other really talented guys and they play all of his songs.

He has started playing at the youth services at church in the old sanctuary – where I played years ago. At first he filled in on drums – rock solid. Then he played bass. Then rhythm guitar.A few weeks ago he lead worship, singing lead, getting people to their feet. Heidi and I were in the balcony videotaping. He sang his heart out. And the youth sang their hearts out with him.

I could say that I don’t have the time to hang out for hours a day playing music and that I am making a living here and it was really windy and the ball took a bad hop and the sun was in my eyes… But the truth is, his learning curve is about 85 degrees and mine is about 10. I can still learn new chords, but not very quickly. I can memorize new songs but it takes forever. I can honestly say that he knows more about guitar now than I’ll ever know.

It is not a sad feeling knowing that my sons have outgrown me in some ways. While I DO MISS those little guys who used to chase me around and try to tackle me, one hanging on each leg while I marched along toward some imaginary goal line making the sound of the crowds cheering for Tim O’Keefe (“How does he DO IT, ladeez and gentlemen?”). While I miss carrying them in the dark, still asleep, to the car and buckling them up and tucking blankets around them on cold days and driving them to school so they could wake up to cereal-in-the-classroom-and-kissing-daddy-goodbye-mornings. While I do miss those wrestling matches and those sleepyheads and those underwear-to-breakfast weekends – When I look into the eyes of these men, well on their way to lives of their own and maybe even Saturday morning wrestling matches with their own children – I feel happy, satisfied, like Heidi and I helped them live into lives full of promise and strength and creativity and joy.

So I am older, and they are stronger. I am wiser (air quotes if you will), they are smarter. While my spine is probably curving over, they are still growing in every way. It is completely natural. It is the way. And it feels right.


Unknown said...

So I think about Devin and the stories you tell of his loving to find snakes and other things in the woods - taking bugs into school to study.

And then I think about Colin and how even at a really young age he began writing notes on paper to create his own music.

Both of these obviously came from you. How cool is that? Even if they CAN take you now. And in all seriousness, Devin might take you on the weight bench and Colin and may play circles around you on guitar but you're still the best teacher any of us have ever known - except on those days when the sun gets in your eyes.

Thinking about what we indirectly teach our kids...Yesterday on the bus ride back from the zoo a couple of my classroom kids were talking about an adult in the building and I heard them say, "She ALWAYS says..." I turned my head and asked a very dangerous question: "What do I ALWAYS say?" I saw Becky and my MAT kind of lift their heads to hear the answer. I got kind of nervous. What do I ALWAYS say???

It wound up being some silly joke or phrase I use to elicit a cheap laugh. I was pleased. That's not such a bad thing to learn.

Unknown said...

I somehow responded as unknown. I guess I wasn't signed in. Oops.

Let me know about tonight and, if you can go, whether or not Heidi is coming. I told Tricia, "I'm not sure if I invited Tim or Tim and Heidi. Seems like the inviter should know these things. Right?"


ruck said...

I will try to add a comment MOM