Monday, August 23, 2010

Why I'm Proud of My Son, & of the Man He's Becoming

"What father is not pleased with the first tottering attempt of his little one to walk? What father would be satisfied with anything but the manly step of the full-grown son?"
-George MacDonald

As an elderly gentleman carries Jenny,a young crippled girl (who knows something of, but not all) his secret, up the staircase to her apt., she asks "Old Ben" why he couldn't just fix her legs. He replies by asking her why he would do so & deprive him of the pleasure of carrying her.
-From "The Fugitive" (The Twilight Zone, Season 3)

Sometimes, even if our children don't need to be carried, or are too old to be, it shouldn't rule out our desire to do so, or theirs to be loved so.

My son is a great warrior. He's an even greater lover. His path is peace, but is a "dove with claws". He is quick to defend those who cannot defend themselves against larger forces of injustice & oppression, with no regard for his own well-being or reputation. As a responsible citizen, he is committed himself to being a friend & protector of the friendless in his high school. He would never pick a fight, but won't let anyone pick one with either him or others weaker than, & would try to stop it (without necessarily finishing it, if it could be avoided).

My son is a Black Belt in Karate, & before becoming a Black Belt, earned 2nd
place in weapons forms at his 1st (& so far only) tournament, his best friend placing just behind by literally mere tenths of a point. He is gracious in victory & merciful to his opponents. He defines his own defeat as opportunity to demonstrate humility.

My son takes leadership initiative in social settings, even among peers he's never met before. He offers a firm, confident handshake. he is well-mannered & could say please & thank you more (who couldn't?). He may not call others "Sir, or Ma'am", but he'll respectfully recognize with humble dignity the crowns of true kings & queens. Most of the friends he makes, he keeps & doesn't judge or criticize them when they have problems, He listens. His sense of sacrifice is selfless. He will only make a promise he believes he can keep.

My son is eager to follow rules, is quick to apology if any violation occurs & accepts discipline with minimal complaint. Like his closest mentor, he is extremely honest, & can't even lie to himself. He's always the first to admit even a thought of wrong, much less the act.

My son has an uncanny (& almost limitless) patience towards nature. On MANY ocasions, animals you'd never think would allow it have "welcomed" his presence, & even gravitated towards him.

My son seems to be a natural at a few things he's tried. His first time kayaking, he got further out with his paddle held backwards than anyone holding theirs frontwards. He's also taken a plane up as well. His Karate instructor mentioned to him that it seems he's found his "niche" weapon already, after just starting with "kamas".

My son is one of the more mature individuals of his generation. He doesn't follow fads or trends. Peer pressure has little effect on him (except when positive). He absorbs any positive example, influence & mentoring other good men offer (& he has a keen sense of discernment, so it's a tight club, with stringet acceptance criteria). If someone tries to force their "philosophy of Manhood" upon him, Cam will evade (rightfully so, & will help others to do likewise) & find shelter among those he trusts. His thoughts run deep. Some of his three word sentences put the best orators to shame. Yes, he's still young, but already, he is a voice of Truth. He has expressed desires of perhaps acting or even pursuing children's ministry. Either way, as Delirious? sings, he is already a "History Maker".

My son isn't satisfied with words to the poor & unfortunate. Generosity is an
action, not a word for him. He has volunteered in local missions. He often donates items that he could keep & enjoy. He also will just give away some things away to friends he knows will enjoy them more (not that he doesn't, just that they would even more so). Thoughtful. He's also thrifty, enjoys second hand shopping (he can't believe how easily & quickly tired we Americans grow of our posessions) & once he sets a financial goal, he won't be cheated of his savings by the false impulses radiating from cheap plastic trinkets, but is easily persuaded to open his meager coffers for good causes. He'll often remind me of how I taught him "People are more important than things".

My son has a gentle, soft & tender spirit towards God & his fellow images of
God. His heart pulses with the whispers of God. His feet fit the footprints of
his Saviour. His shoulders carry the weight of adult expectation, yet his legs
lead him to the sandbox where Jesus plays.

My son's imagination churns with the dreams of God. The stories & worlds he creates are full of wonder. it is remarkable to find a teen who enjoys healthy viewing, in today's wasteland of broadcast fodder. He loves our annual "New Year's Eve" (he started it) "Back to the Future Trilogy" marathon. His favorite film maker is M. Night Shyamalan. He finds his work to be creative, challenging, & intriguing. He loves good "Blood & Bombs" flicks, but won't abide amoral hero types. He enjoys "TLOTR", "Narnia", "Star Wars, "James Bond", "Jurassic Park" & countless others from every genre, His recent picks are "District 9" & "Moon" (almost literally a one man act "tour de force"):

"The Host" is his favorite "Creature Feature", a Korean film that makes our "creature features" seem like sat morning. He absolutely believes in the "Good Guys" Like Vigo Mortensen's son in "The Road", & that I'm still one of them, despite my own internal doubts. He believes in heroes who fight for truth & justice, but not necessarily "The American Way". His favorite Westerns are "The Man With No Name Trilogy" & "Rio Bravo" (again, the underdog's his favorite, "Dude") He also won't accept the injustice of the "Bad Guy's" getaway, & is disappointed if the story ends without their come-uppance.

My son has the most incredible heart for worship. He's also proud to be an Alice Cooper fan ( : We'll listen "irresponsibly" to Led Zeppelin in the car, "zeppeling" down the freeway. He loves decent 80's tunes (Talking Heads, "Stop Making Sense" is a favorite concert film) & he also listens to such a vast array of musical styles, that his peers don't know quite what to do with his music. When there's a moment to spare, drop in on for FREE downloads of FULL albums, if you're brave enough or just curious to hear his favorite indie band. U2 is a shared fave (He saw them in Milwaukee). We'll spend time with Johnny Cash often. Flatfoot 56 outranks most bands for him. The Remnants are another punk band he burns energy on. for Americana, he'll look for Lost Dogs. He'll visit Buddy Miller & Mike Farris too, while he's in that neighborhood. David Crowder,Third Day, & Switchfoot spend time on his Ipod, too. Demon Hunter, War of Ages & Living Sacrifice are his "precious" metals. In a creative mood, he'll spin Havalina or Blue Man Group. He has a fondness for Randy Stonehill. He enjoys classic Newsboys & Delirious? When he wants to "Rave", he'll blow his speakers with Moby, Paradigm Shift, or Sheltershed. Last but certainly not least, come of course, The Beatles remind both of us what Rock n' Roll can be, a good time with a good message, & maybe an actual artform, too.

My son can outscore me if challenged to a round of "Galaga", an arcade game he shouldn't be so good at. I won't even try to take him on Playstation 3. He can solve a Rubik's Cube on the spot. I had to cheat & take mine apart, like most of us nimwits. His mind is built like a machine. It crunches numbers I could never dream. Smart, very smart. Plays chess, too (He doesn't think he plays well, but I can't play at all). He has great memory retention. I swear he remembers things about MY childhood I forgot.

My son takes his light reading in doses of Batman, Iron Man, & Spider-man. I'm glad for these choices, & could think (but won't) of far worse material a 15 yr. old might explore. Besides, there's nothing better than reading from panel to panel, knowing who'll win, but wondering how, then being delightfully frustrated at the end until the next issue or volume comes out. Below is a portion of script from "Spider-man 2" that illustrates why I'm grateful for Cam's choices. Shortly before this scene, Peter Parker has made the decision to be Peter Parker, without Spider-man, & leaves his costume in a trash barrel. Later, he visits his Aunt May, where we witness this exchange:

Henry Jackson: Hi, Peter!

Peter Parker: Hey, Henry! You've grown tall.

Aunt May: You'll never guess who he wants to be... Spider-Man!

Peter Parker: Why?

Aunt May: He knows a hero when he sees one. Too few characters out there, flying around like that, saving old girls like me. And Lord knows, kids like Henry need a hero. Courageous, self-sacrificing people. Setting examples for all of us. Everybody loves a hero. People line up for them, cheer them, scream their names. And years later, they'll tell how they stood in the rain for hours just to get a glimpse of the one who taught them how to hold on a second longer. I believe there's a hero in all of us, that keeps us honest, gives us strength, makes us noble, and finally allows us to die with pride, even though sometimes we have to be steady, and give up the thing we want the most. Even our dreams.

My son never passes up Italian, rarely passes up Mexican, & enjoys seafood. He has the usual cravings for double cheeseburgers. He likes asian, as well. He'll take a double or triple scoop of most any ice cream, but Blue Moon has his stomach. Reeses' is often the only way I see him digesting peanut butter. He also loves the breakfasts I cook (claiming my omelets "pone" any other dish). He's a Carnivore that views vegetation as only weak camouflage for his prey.

My son enjoys the humor of Peanuts, Foxtrot, Garfield, Calvin & Hobbes, The Far Side, & Brevity. His sense of humor has reduced to me crawling on my hands & knees, trying to escape the room gasping, desperate for air. He's extremely original, & rarely leans on others' jokes or routines to accomplish his attack. His wit has offered better healing than any remedy modern science can cook up. He always roots for Daffy Duck when no one else does. He has a soft spot for the underappreciated, in both fantasy & reality.

My son loves gryphons, mythological half lion/eagle creatures, seen briefly in "The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe", as air support for the armies of Aslan. The following was lifted from "Wikipedia":

Being a union of a terrestrial beast and an aerial bird, it was seen in Christindom to be a symbol of Jesus, who was both human and divine. A griffin's claw was believed to have medicinal properties and one of its feathers could restore sight to the blind. It represents power, supremacy, dignity and majesty. It was considered a guardian of riches (sometimes a symbol of education as precious treasure). It is also portayed as a "protector of "man and beasts" and as the "enemy of ignorance". In heraldry, the griffin's amalgamation of lion and eagle represents leadership, courage & boldness, and it is always drawn to battle against powerful,fierce monsters. Griffins are portrayed with a lion's body, an eagle's head, long ears, and an eagle's claws, to indicate that one must combine intelligence and strength.
I discovered this as I wrote this. Without knowing the symbolism, my son chose intuitively. Interesting what it tells me about about my son (I hear God's still small voice). He also loves gargoyles for different reasons other than popular belief, but because they are so misunderstood & misrepresented (as shown through the story "God Bless the Gargoyles" by Dav Pilky, a children's story for all of us). A few yrs. ago he wrote "Tindren", a brief story about a guardian gargoyle, in hopes to help us understand what their purpose originally was (& still is). On a related note, both gryphons & gargoyles adorn the ledges of many midievel cathedrals, cohabitating as symbolic guardians of sacred worship.

My son, by God's grace alone (parenting notwithstanding) is not a troubled child. He has rejected so many of his generation's excesses (genderbending, huffing, shock talk) He's not out prowling the streets looking for "scores". He doesn't break curfew, sneak out, sneak in, trash his room or his friends' homes. Most parents(some have said as much to us) only hope, pray, & dream of an influence for their teens that my son has been to his peers. Even before middle school, he memorized twice as much scripture in his studies than the ENTIRE middle school group combined in one yr. at his Awana club. The leader christened him "The General" (how apt, since the powers of darkness always declare war on the young first) because he literally had no more room on his uniform for any more awards. No, it's not about awards or recognition, but it certainly threw down a gauntlet & made (makes) him a target.

My son never lets me go until I hug & we pray, esp. when I've hit my lowest, & darkest moments. We've never stopped, though I was, & am still tempted. I will never grow tired of, nor will he ever be too old to call me "Daddy". If God never gets tired of us calling him so, then we should never be too old to do so. If we are, it's our misfortune, & a terrible truth to mistake as a "childish thing to put away" (St. Paul). Yes, (Like Andy in Toy Story 3) he has begun to put away childish things like "Pooh Bear", & his "clone army that could beat up your clone army" action figures (from Star Wars") but all these "things" are memories of who he was, & in some ways, who he'd still like to be (as we all wistfully wish in secret). These weren't just useless pieces of plastic & tin, but tools to shape his role playing which prepares him for such a mean jaded world that's threatened by such innocence. Someday, he'll reopen this room with the arrival of his firstborn, & realize why he never completely shut that door, & why it was good he never let anyone shut it, either.

"Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things - trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that's a funny thing when you come to think of it. We're just babies making up a game, if you're right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That's why I'm going to stand by the play-world. I'm on Aslan's side even if there isn't any Aslan to lead it. I'm going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn't any Narnia."

-Puddleglum, The Silver Chair (C.S. Lewis)

Toy Story 3 illustrates what I've written here, with tenderness & truth. The same filmmakers also made "Up" (2009), & on my son's recommendation (he hadn't seen it either) we went to screen it late last year. For someone so young, no one could've picked better. At the Academy awards, (a few which "Up" recieved) the creators wore "Elle Badges" (you'll understand ifyou've seen it). How silly (or not) of those grown ups:

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My son's not yet an adult, sometimes in too much a hurry to get there, & sometimes too slow in arriving. the tension offers near-perfect balance in such an upside-down imperfect world that offers false images of manhood & rewards those whose lives have hardened & toughened them beyond what we were supposed to be in the garden, caretakers of Creation loved by & loving our Creator with simple, pure childlike innocence. This spark burns like fuel within his soul. May it ever be so.

"Be yourself because everyone else is already taken."
-Charles Schulz

This world is in a severe shortage crisis, a "Pandemic" of historical & eternal
proportions. My son, & so many young men like him, will fight, & some most likely selflessly die in the effort to fight what Madeline L 'Engle calls the "Darkness". This generation of man is landing on it's own battleshores, far from home, fighting(sadly, often with minimal training or support) without any thought of thanks, gratitude, medals, or parades, unaware, or uncaring of the dissonance being whispered through the wires of authority, dissaproving of how the war is being fought or not being won hard enough, as if these young men are on summer holiday. Perhaps it isn't my son who needs to change (he will, though, because he wants to, & he should want to) so much as he could (has, is, & will) change the world around him through the living Christ that inhabits him. He should be encouraged to be himself, not discouraged from being so just because of a few common flaws we all share (the results are never satisfying & only breed deep, bitter resentment. Once those roots are watered, they're murder to pull up). We shouldn't demand his generation work with our past generations' material (look what mine got from the previous, & theirs from the previous, etc, etc). We should work with the material they're made of. EVERYONE would get more mileage from here to eternity if we did. As one female sloth said to another in "Ice Age", "all the nice ones get eaten", except the ones who are also dangerous, Can you hear Aslan's roar in their battlecry? I do everyday...

My son has troubles (we all do), but no more or less than us. He'll never love
perfectly (& I'll never love him, or anyone perfectly). He isn't a "golden"
boy, but he's not as tarnished as others are. I'm thankful for how he shares the struggles he has. I am as often encouraged by how he holds his shield as much as how he draws his sword, despite his flaws. We really do annoy each other sometimes, but it's not always just his fault. I can tell he's never meant any disrespect. Two guys alone wknd after wknd are eventually going to bump chests & challenge each other to a pissing contest on ocasion. Instead of avoiding it & shutting him down, shouldn't I show him how to bump chests & piss in the woods, or even better, how to deal with conflict in the heat of nostrils flaring? He'll learn one way (safely) or another (dangerously). It's emasculation of his (& mine) manhood otherwise. Nobody else can be (nor should try to be) his father. My former spouse actually asked my son whether he wanted to keep my name as his last name, as if it was a surefire sign of leprosy. I had (still do, always will) more than a supporting role in not just passing on negative traits, but also in shaping his "strength of a different kind", as Pippin recognized of Faramir in a scene titled "The Houses of Healing" (not so ironic) from the film "The Return of the King". Unlike Faramir with his father Denothor, the crazed, power-maddened Steward of Gondor, my son won't have to wait for me to see it someday. I choose to see it now, so that it'll be easier to see as my vision dims & he grows. His/my battle between flesh & spirit is inherited (from the bloodlines of this tragic history of man), but I know of his/my greater inheritance (one that won't tarnish, spoil, or fade). I'm one proud & humbled father to be entrusted & gifted with the breath of heaven that wears the skin of earth, carries the weakness of the grave, yet contains the strength of eternal embrace. I call him Son. I can only imagine his "True" name (Madeline L 'Engle), waiting & written with the ink of stars above...

Surely A Blessed Father I Am,
sinner saint jebbus

P.S. If you've made it this far, & you're a parent, you know the homework you have now. Let your children know, really know, how proud you are, & never let yourself forget, no matter what they do or don't do. Do this, & they won't ever forget who they're meant to be, even if they "lose themselves".