The Boy in the Mirror: Raising Yourself

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He came bounding out of the school wearing an old Easter outfit I recognized from a few years ago.

He’s not the paragon of fashion, and I’m okay with that as long as he is.

It was a dark mint shirt with a striped tie where one stripe matched a shade of the shirt. Khaki cargo trousers and a belt rounded out the ensemble.

“How was your presentation?” I asked, sort of feebly.

“It was good, dad, I think I got an A, or at least I’m pretty sure,” he told me.

“How’d you tie that tie? ” I asked him, motioning to the monstrosity dangling from his neck.

“Uh, mom helped me,” he said, neglecting to tell me that she had told him to go look it up on the Internet, which is exactly what I would have done, since that is what I have to do the once or twice a year I actually wear a tie.

My middle guy is a big heart with some rough edges. That’s probably why I like him so much. He’s just too easy to love.

“Did other parents show up at this thing?” I asked him.

“Yeah, a few, I guess,” he said. “But a lot of parents didn’t show up.”

He told me you could get extra credit for either bringing guests or dressing up.

“You know mom and I would have come if you would have told us about this,” I said.

“I thought maybe mom would have to make dinner and wouldn’t want to come,” he said. “Besides, I got extra credit for dressing up.”

I thought about that for a few minutes as we drove the half mile from his school to our house.

The truth is, we never know about Carson’s school activities. Even when we try to be proactive, a word I absolutely despise, we are usually foiled.

Carson knows exactly what he wants people to see and experience, and he’s wise enough to know how to play things to his advantage.

He scares me that way.

It wouldn’t have mattered if we had absolutely wanted to come to a science presentation on a Thursday night, if the boy didn’t want us there, he would be sure to lay a distraction trail to dissuade us from coming.

He’s the consummate  politician, a player in the truest sense of the word. He’s streetwise and crafty and absolutely sincere and lovable.

He’s the politician you shake hands with and look him in the eye and believe everything he’s telling you.

It’s strange to think of your son in these terms, but I’ve come to realize I was what I was far earlier than the world did. And had the world just let me be what I would be, I might have taken it all over. Who knows.

My older, responsible son teaches me a lot about the parts of myself that I lack. But my middle son fills in the rest. The parts of me that I never realized how much I used to get from point A to point B. From adolescence to adulthood.

A most perilous journey that I’m surprised as many of us survive intact. Or perhaps we don’t, which contributes to the dance we call life or the curse we call being grownup.

I could dwell on why he didn’t want me at his presentation tonight, but I won’t . He means well, and perhaps he’s carrying a little of the wisdom of his forefathers around with him.

I will never tread this path perfectly. I won’t even come close to not screwing up on a daily basis.

It takes my middle kid to teach me that this is okay, that it’s okay to be myself. I’m forgiven and loved and respected in spite of myself.

And I’m grateful for that.

– Tim




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