Archive for the ‘a father reflects’ Category


March 28, 2009

“Watch this,” my wife says as dinner winds up.

Our younger son is repeating “Deh, deh” and making the signs for down and please.  His brother, just two years older, steps over, scooches back the high chair, and works at the belt clips.  Some fidgeting ensues, to which he comically reassures, “Not yet, just a minute.”  Amazingly it works: the little one stills, watching his brother’s progress with a patient, bemused smile.  These roles – rehearsed, I presume, over that day’s breakfast and lunch – are played eagerly.

When the belt does fall loose the younger boy tilts, torso careening forward.  His arms wrap around his brother’s neck; big brother grabs him tight around the chest.  Their faces mash into each other’s shirts, making me wonder how the older boy can see as his spine arches back to drag his brother’s girth from the seat.  Eighteen months of boy is a serious load for a three-and-a-half-year-old.  Other children lift my younger son, but they’re five, six.  Three and a half is still little – little and determined.

* * *

Flash.  I am on Isla de Cabras, Puerto Rico.  Grass, waves, gangly coconut trees.  I’m fifteen.  (more…)


have i seen Jesus?

March 7, 2009

“Daddy, have I seen Jesus?”

The question emerges from the back seat darkness.  It’s late, way past bedtime.  One son, sixteen months, already is conked on the trip home from Grannie’s.  The radio’s off, and after several minutes of highway hum I realize my other son, three and a half years, has not, after all, been chasing his brother to Neverland.  He’s been ruminating.

For years he’s heard about Jesus; suddenly it occurs to him that he’s never actually met the Fellow.  Recently he’s been asking all his acquaintances if they know each other.  Has Grannie met Kylie?  Has Kylie met Sam?  Has Sam met Aunt Kate?  How fascinating to realize kaleidoscope of faces and names in his life isn’t a radial wheel, himself at center – it’s a webwork of possible cross-connection.  Some people he hasn’t met, like his mother’s mother’s mother, or his aunt’s boss’s wife.  Still, they’re not mentioned often.  Somehow there’s a person everyone else seems to know, someone he himself has never met. (more…)


March 18, 2008

Noon, the kitchen lights off.  He sits in the dim blue air chewing orange slices, talking about his new bicycle helmet, thumping his palms on the table and bounce-kicking in the garish plastic booster he’s too old for but still enjoys. He’s backlit, the box window tracing his shape in a gentle blue that nestles in his curls. Rattling off lines from bedtime books, his round eyes look to mine for approval. At two and a half he’s shed the last signs of the toddler – he is all boy. He asks for more chocolate milk, shoulders in their rugby shirt squared to face me, neck lifted, anticipating. Yesterday’s hike shows in the sun splashed across his cheeks. He’s no copy of me: chestnut hair is lighter than mine, not as tangled; forehead wider, bolder; eyes Egyptian-pinched. And as he holds his cup with head tilted, awaiting my answer, it occurs to me, watching this little person as I finish the dishes in the sink: if I had the power to custom-craft a child, I would make him exactly like this. Curious, rambunctious, sincere. A bit ruddy, a bit tender. And absolutely perfect.

it’s not easy

January 28, 2008

In the middle of naptime he screams. One knee is twisted between two crib rails, driving him to panic. Must’ve been playing instead of sleeping.

As my wife disentangles him, she gets a whiff of another stealth activity. He is surrounded by corroborating evidence: a smear across his chest, clawmarks on his sheet, makeup applied to the face of his stuffed cow. What arrived in his diaper is now everywhere.

I am summoned. Together we adults impress upon our child the seriousness of this infraction. Do not play with poopy. Do not even touch it. We strip him of his clothes and make a pile of blankets, sheets and Mr. Cow. (more…)

snow rebellion

January 20, 2008

Fluffy, quiet, all afternoon the flakes fell gently. He’d wanted to walk among them, to breathe in the world’s white transfiguration. By the time I organized myself, however, he’d already moved on.

“I want to play trains,” he intoned.

“Come on, it’s snow!” I coaxed. “Let’s get your boots on. We’ll have a great time.”

Cornered, his eyes sunk, lower lip retracted. “I want to play trains.” (more…)

through his eyes

January 5, 2008

I wish I could see life through my son’s eyes.

In his infancy we placed him on a colorful playmat with overhead toys. I shoved my face inside to feel what it was like.

I’ve positioned my head at his level in the carseat to figure out how much he sees as we drive (more than I expected). I’ve checked the view of a ceiling fan from the floor below (a steady circular motion, not the swoop-swoop-swooping oval from adult height). I’ve crouched to look straight up into the lighted mobile above his swing (brighter, more colorful than apparent from anywhere but the seat).

I’ve even used the excuse of “retrieving my son” to crawl through the multi-storied plastic gym at Chick-Fil-A (hey, they didn’t have those things when I grew up). (more…)


December 21, 2007

“Read to me?” he asked, patting the couch.

“Sure!”  I plunked down and took the book from his lap.

“No!”  He ripped the book from my hands. “I read it!”

By this he meant he wanted to hold the book and turn the pages himself while I read aloud. Good for him, taking steps toward independent reading.

Still, that didn’t justify the ferocity of his retrieval, so I shot him a look: brow raised, chin lowered, glaring over the rim of my glasses – a look that said, “Well!”

… and there he was, shooting a look right back: brow raised, chin lowered, glaring out of the tops of his eye sockets – a look that said, “That’ll show you!”

My wife, witness to this expressional face-off, burst out laughing. So did I. And so did he.

That particular expression is a regular in my repertoire, but I never knew what it looked like from the outside until my son aimed it right back at me.

jumping Jesus

December 15, 2007

Things got a little weird when we unpacked our nativity scene.

Two and a half years old, our oldest showed little response as we unwrapped Mary and Joseph. But when baby Jesus emerged, his entire face brightened: “Baby Jesus. Baby Jesus!”  He snatched the figurine and cradled it in both palms, scrutinizing. So this was the Jesus person he’d heard so much about. I wondered what he was thinking, how this image of an infant Christ was reshaping earlier impressions.

Within minutes he stood by the couch, raising and lowering the figurine in quick jerks. “Baby Jesus jumping. Baby Jesus jumping on the couch!”  Our nativity had transformed into an action figure playset. (more…)

the second greatest story ever told

November 6, 2007

My older son came along to pick up a Papa John’s pizza. On the drive home it occurred to me that a two-year-old might not understand the nature of this little transaction, so I spelled it out for him in simple terms.

“Again?” he asked.

“You want to hear it again?” I asked.  “Alright.”  As I repeated the pizza-ordering process he echoed every line, enthusiasm mounting until we reached the climax.

“Again?” he asked.

By the time we were home he could voice the entire thing with me fluently:

This is how it works: when you get hungry you say, “Hmm, I think I want a pizza.”  So you call the store and say, “Please make me a pizza.”  And the store makes you a pizza with bread, tomatoes and cheese – that’s a pizza! Then you drive to the store and say, “Where’s my pizza?”  They say, “Here it is!”  So you give them money, and they give you the pizza. Then you drive home and you eat it!

What about this story delighted him so much? I suspect it was the first lengthy how-to narrative he’d ever heard. It spelled out a single process from start to finish, a process he had experienced it with me.

How astounding it must be, hearing words paint the first full story in your mind.

unspoken rules

October 20, 2007

He was so curious about our 3D tic-tac-toe set, I figured why not. How complicated is tic-tac-toe?


Forget strategy; forget even the concept of winning. As we played, my son gave me a step-by-step education on the numerous possibilities for invalidating a game.

It turns out board games require a host of principles we take for granted: (more…)

true obedience

August 6, 2007

Jesus and Peter walked on water. The Israelites crossed the Red Sea on dry ground. Neil Armstrong planted his bootprints on the moon.

Next to those, the most astounding footsteps I know were just three or four in number, and took place in my mother’s kitchen.

My son – compulsive, train-obsessed two-year-old boy – was crouched over the toy train track Grannie had set for him in a spare nook of kitchen floor. It was time to go. Knowing his propensity for emotional explosion, I’d issued a five-minute warning, then a two-minute warning … not that he had any such grasp of time, only to ready him for imminent disappointment.

Finally, time was up. “Okay now, let’s go,” I said. “Come put on your shoes.”  Expecting the customary collapse and outburst, I was shifting position to lift him off the floor. (more…)