I re-post this 2021 post from my Facebook page in honor of my son James’ 19th birthday.
My son’s a man today, in conventional thinking. But he does not come by it suddenly. It did not come upon him all at once when the calendar turned over to his 18th year.
No, he learned part of manhood when I explained to him at 3 years old that the more he would obey, the more I could trust him—and that he’d get to do more things that way.He learned part of it when he and I buried his little sister together at the cemetery—when we made that task our own, rather than letting someone else take care of it for us.
He learned it through the spankings he got,
and how we thought that principles were more important than just getting what we want. He learned it through the timeouts, where it seems we stopped the clock just to get his thinking on straight again.
He was learning it when he was four, and would often say, “Hey, Dad, can we talk about the government?”—when I’d tell him what all was happening, and what had been supposed to happen.He learned it through seeing his mom devoting years of her life to teach him privately the things that she (and I) thought were most important to learn.
And he learned part of it at five or six, when I assured him that he was indeed ready for the training wheels to come off—and that he needed to trust me, that I knew what I was talking about—and to take the risk and try the new thing. He decided to risk it and it worked.
He learned it from seeing us express our struggles, rather than hide them. And he learned it from thousands of conversations about how the world works and what goes on here, and how it could be better.
He learned it from seeing us manage our promises well—and the disappointment that sometimes goes along with not being able to keep them well—and our diligence in making alternate arrangements in good faith.He learned it when we took the time to explain why and why not—as a way of life, and not begrudgingly—such as when he brought the turned-on hose into the back door of the laundry room, and wet everything in there.
He learned it from the great books he and Kay read—from what I heard someone call “the wisdom of the ages”.
He learned it from seeing us be faithful and kind to one another. And from seeing us make ourselves be honest in the way we express and explain things.
He is so well equipped for the world today—to take his rightful place as an adult. But he has been so much like an adult for a very long time now—first in this way, and then in that. And he has become our peer in almost every way. He has an equal place in the family discussion—and not just by ceremony, but by virtue of his wisdom and knowledge. We want his advice.
We have given him what we knew to give—and despite whatever our shortcomings have proved to be, he has become a man—a good man—fair and just and kind. These are the things that matter most. And yes, he has other virtues, too, and a fault here and there, as do we all.But it has now run its course, and we have delivered him to this day. And he has delivered us, too.
And life is even better than before, for his presence in it.
Happy birthday, James!