My Other Kid

I’ve expended a fair amount of ink on the Eldest over the summer, so it’s high time I updated you all on the Youngest.

One advantage of having Eldest gone was the extended time hanging with the Young ‘un. Their energy is so completely different, and I’m thrilled that I have two kids who complement each other so nicely, at least from a mother’s point of view. Where Eldest constantly questions, usually with the subtlety of a battering ram – she is by every definition a thrilling child – Youngest is a lot more contemplative. Conversations with him are like a nice quiet trip on a river. Highly observant, he tends to ask questions that he’s put a fair amount of thought into, and when he asks, he really wants a serious answer. Over the summer, we’ve covered mothers vs. fathers, why wars get started, why some people don’t have enough stuff, why TV shows tend to get worse over time, and why chefs have to be willing to taste their food.

One recurring theme is his frustration at being left out by his peers because, in his words, “I’m not that good at sports.” This doesn’t stir up any self-hatred in him (at least, it doesn’t seem to), just mild bewilderment. He doesn’t judge people on whether or not they can run fast. Why would anyone else?

The spouse often laments how mean the culture’s become. I just think it doesn’t really change that much. Superficially, a few things get better, and even at a deeper level, progress can be noted; certainly, blacks, Latinos, and gays being so mainstream in pop culture as to be commonplace is a very good thing. But kids are still rotten and mean. The sensitivity training that they now undergo from an early age just teaches them to subvert their nasty impulses in front of authority. On the playground, mob rule is still the only rule.

I think the thing that sucks most about being a parent is that you have to let your kids fail and you have to let them get hurt. Man, it’s awful. I watched Y in basketball practice one day; he didn’t see me. Long-limbed, growing so fast that his center of gravity constantly shifts, he flailed around on the court but really with no detriment. But one young opportunist tripped on him. The monumentally bad acting as this kid whined in pain on the floor put Reggie Miller to shame. Y apologized, clearly confused. The kid ignored him, continuing his act, but the smugness was palpable from my seat in the chicken gallery. It was all I could do to not walk onto the court and punch the little bastard (some pacifist). Here I have the biggest drama queen since Harvey Fierstein getting away with a pathetic performance complete with over-the-top limping that disappeared the second he figured no one was watching – and my kid gets the dirty looks from the other players, and even some parents? At one point, the coach finally said, “Dude, take it down a notch,” or an equivalent to Little Lord Olivier.

Through it all, Y continues to give the benefit of the doubt. “He’s not such a bad kid, Mom. You don’t have to get so mad.” He puts me to shame.

I learn so much from him: patience, gentleness, goodwill, but most remarkably, what it’s like to believe in yourself. At church one day, our pastor emeritus, a noted peace activist in the area who’s been impressed by Y’s continual prayer requests for an end to war, told me, “You know something wonderful? It’s so obvious when I watch your son that he’s been completely accepted his entire life. He’s so comfortable in his own skin.” It was one of the nicest compliments I’ve ever received.

Our current pastor once told the church the story of Anna in the Bible, the woman who prayed she would live to see the Messiah and lived to do it, making it to her late 90s in a time when the average life expectancy was probably 35. He compared Y to her, saying, “It may take until you’re an old, old man, but I bet one day, because you’ve never stopped asking for it, you’ll get your wish for peace.”

I hope he’s right. And until then, I am deeply, deeply grateful for this beautiful gift, my center of calm, my son.

2 thoughts on “My Other Kid

  1. What a remarkable description of Henry. My favorite memory of him was playing soccer one day and a little girl on the other team fell, just as someone kicked the ball to Henry. He ignored the ball, helped the little girl to her feet and made sure she was all right…and then went back to the game! What a man you are raising! I’m proud of both of you! GS

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