Size Matters Not

The other day before heading into the theater to watch Transformers 2 (an unbridled mess of a film that managed to surgically remove all the parts that made the first installment so much fun and replace it with so many robots and subplots that they didn't even have time to name them all or resolve half of them) my 9-year old son pulled me aside and addressed me in something I've come to call his "thoughtful voice."

Kids are amazing creatures. They're driven by desire, yet easily bored. They're hungry for new challenges and experiences, but can be slow to hold on to the common sense lessons they glean from them. Yet what I discover as I enter my ninth year of parenting is that my son is not just experiencing or staying along for the ride -- he's taking everything in, always thinking, always considering the world around him and the people in it.
He's not always able to verbalize what he comes up with -- but he sees everything through unique lenses.
I have a feeling we all did this as children, and in a lot of ways continue to do it as we mature -- but I'm starting to wonder if as you gather experience and age, if you don't begin to put filters in front of those lenses. Like sunglasses to block out the sun, it seems like as adults we frequently color our sight with the comparisons of the past, the philosophies we develop, and the ideologies we find ourselves aligning with along the way.

These differences are in a lot of ways what identifies our individuality. I find that when I'm at work, even though I'm not too far off in age from many of the people I work with (and in several cases actually older than them), that I find their attitudes to be "old." There's a lot of hesitation around here when it comes to changing procedures, approaching things differently, or just throwing caution to the wind. I find myself constantly saying things like, "If we do all these studies and planning you're talking about -- we'll never actually do anything. Lets just develop an action plan, and start getting shit done!"
But then when I tell my son I'm going to see a concert and he asks
if he can come too -- I always say,
"Maybe when you're a little older."
I'm at a different level than my coworkers, my son is at a different level than me, my father is at a different level from both of us, my brother and his wife different from all of that, my friends and their families different from that. Even when the goals and occurrences are similar, the approaches are different.

And that's not to say that different approaches are bad, or wrong. My brother and I approach most things in life in our own ways, it's just the way we are -- and his kids are awesome.

What's interesting though is that you're never so locked into one mindset or approach that you can't see those differences. If anything, you're keenly aware of it when you come in contact with them. Some things you wish you had more of in yourself, some things you're ecstatic that you seem to don't have any of in your system.

Every time I encounter people who seem to have a natural sense of priority, an instinctive ability to multitask towards an actual goal I find myself envious. Yet whenever I meet folks tied to planners, schedules, and paper I recoil in horror. Perhaps part of it is in the attraction of opposite polarities or something, I don't know -- but I tend to like people who have their shit together.
..I do wonder about anyone who thinks I'm one of them, though.
When I'm at my best, I'm laid back. Cocky in my abilities. But I worry sometimes that a big part of that comes from swimming at the end of the pool that I can stand up in. I still take chances, but not quite the same ways I used to. Worst of all, I'm harshly aware of that difference. Of the erosion that time and experience seem to have had on my overall approach to the world that I experience.
I'm the best guitarist you've never heard play.
I'm your favorite unpublished writer.
I'm going to make some lucky girl very happy ..someday.
My son has been described by a number of people as being a "young 9." When he was playing little league earlier this year, the differences in approach that marked him from some of the other kids (especially the ones who had played for a few years and had "really driven" baseball parents) was striking. He did surprisingly well in the batters box, but even after playing a full season hasn't shown much interest in watching baseball or following a team. The other kids really liked him, even when his inexperience showed on the field -- but they tended to get on him now and then for not knowing pro player's names or things like that.
When I was growing up, people told me I had an "old soul."
Nowadays I get accused of trying to hard to hold onto
the past. Of comparing too much. Of not acting my age.
Years get lost. Periods and plateaus. Directions you thought you were going to go, places you never thought you'd find yourself in. Stages of recapturing, recharging, re-evaluating, and recalibration. I know I'll never be 20 years old again, but was there something in that 20-year old me that got lost in the shuffle of pushing too hard to be more mature and more settled that needs to come back? By the same token -- how much of that crap just needs to be tossed out the window and forgotten?

By not having the clearest picture of which image in the mirror is the real me versus the person I've become (or the image at times I've attempted to project), I frequently find myself caught in questions of personal authenticity. Am I really a musician, or just a guy who plays guitar? If I finally understand that being a good father is more important than anything else I do from this point forward -- does it mean that nothing else I enjoy doing is worthwhile at all?
Because I don't feel that way.
I want my son to know I'm there, that he'll always be cared for, loved, and protected. But I don't think there's much value in him thinking that I don't have a life. That I'm just a passionless deliverer of toys who announces bedtimes, cooks breakfast, and only exists to make sure he washes his hands after going to the bathroom.
He knows when I'm unhappy. He sees it with those lenses of his, and never hesitates to let me know it.
Our best times are when we're both having fun. When we're both locked into the emotion of the moment. Whether it be playing a video game or finishing homework. He's got a look, a certain glow when he's really happy (as I think we all do) -- but what's really clicked for me recently is that that glow is easier to create when I'm happy too.

He's very sensitive to the emotions of people around him, and tends to react to them. Maybe all kids are like that. I know I can still be that way a lot of times -- even though one of the things I've noticed about adulthood that there is a value in being able to stay levelheaded when others are going batshit, in having the ability to create laughter when everyone else is feeling down, in being the sunshine in other people's rainstorms.

All things you can accomplish whether or not you're feeling happy about it.
My son sees right through it.
It's one of the many, many amazing things about him.
So when he takes on that thoughtful tone in his voice, as he did outside the theater the other day -- I make sure I take the extra effort to listen. Because even though he's not always able to find the right words, he's always speaking directly, purely, and unapologetically from his heart.
This is what he said,
"The other day when I was at my (grand) Papa's house, I saw some pictures of you when you were skinny and had hair -- and I realized that you um.. You look like somebody."
"Really? Who is that?"
"You looked like Anakin Skywalker -- you know, before he was Darth Vader ..but not when he was a little kid."
"Wow, You think so?"
"Yeah. You don't have the scar on your face, but everything else was just like Anakin."
"Well thanks, buddy. I'm gonna take that as a compliment."
And then he hugged me, looked me in the eye again, and said:
"I know you want to be skinny again, like you were in the picture. And I think you can be -- if you keep working on it..
..But your hair isn't coming back."

[Listening to:  Dub War - "Words of Warning" ]


Werdna said…
Hahahah!!! Awesome. Great post.

Fat and old, and bald, but we don't have to be old minded.
wigsf said…
So, how far are you from looking like Anakin at the end of Return? Fat, bald, fugly.

Could be worse. Your son could say: "You know Dad, you look like that guy from Star Wars. You know, the really cool one. Whatsisname, Jar Jar something."
Hex said…
Werdna -- My life is slipping away, I'm aging every day
But even when I'm grey
I'll still be grey my way.

WIGSF -- I do make a black suit and cape look good. But if this means I have a daughter out there somewhere, I'm gonna be pissed.

ps - while you're here, I have a question: Where are those transmissions you intercepted? Hmm? If this is a consular ship then where is the ambassador?
Frank said…
I've been told rather frequently that I have an "old soul."

I'm still not quite sure what that means, but my girlfriend assures me that it means "you are usually grouchy and bitter like a 70 year-old man."
Dorian said…
Heh - I still have that pic of you at the beach with your surfboard. :)
JerseySjov said…
you are so lucky to have such a cute, great kid for a son... everytime i read a post about him i just want to babysit the heck outta him.

i used to be mature for my age, but i caught up to myself around 17 or 18 when i stopped taking myself so seriously.
The Kaiser said…
Why is it considered immature to enjoy doing something, but not enjoy obsessively pursuing peripheral derivatives of that thing?