free Will

William Arthur Pratt
William Arthur Pratt

Will is my oldest son.  On November 9th, he turned 13, and became our third teenager, and first boy teenager.

Honestly, I have struggled to find an angle from which to write this post.  I have struggled with the ups and downs of attitudes and emotions that come from the days of life with a teenager.  I have struggled to find happy thoughts and sweet somethings to say about Will, somethings that seem to come so easily for a cute and cuddly preschool-age kid.

Tonight, it’s late, I’m exhausted, I have an early wake-up call, and my relationship with Will is strained by recent days of difficulty, but I’ve decided I have to get this out of my system.  I have to find a way to articulate the hidden somethings from my heart that aren’t covering the distance to my mind so easily.

I’ve realized that the real story about my feelings toward Will can mostly be found in the difficulty I have translating those feelings into words.

I’ve been shocked by the experience.  I’ve been frustrated by the lack of an emotional fountain that can be evoked by simple thoughts of my oldest son.  I’ve been worn out trying to find a handle on an old story that I could pull on to produce cute and meaningful anecdotes about my first boy and the joys and challenges of raising him.

Emotions, I have.  Stories, I have.  Love, I have.  Words, not so much.

I remember how, on multiple occasions, when Will was little, I would express my love for him to Renee.  I would say, “Oh, God, I love that boy!  Oh, wow, I love him so much.  I just love him!”

I would also pray almost daily for the strength and courage to be a father to Will without breaking him.  I have been so frustrated by the ups and downs of my relationship with him, and so angry at him on so many occasions, and so hard in my discipline toward him, with such high hopes for who God intends for Will to be, that I have been afraid I would break the beauty of his unique character and turn him into some fearful, impotent, bland, conglomeration of my own weak images of what I’ve desired.

Heaven is a pile of ReesesI’ve worried that I would hack and chop and squeeze the life out of him, like an over-anxious gardener pruning the vines so deep nothing can grow.

Will is very much like me in so many ways, and entirely unlike me in so many others.  He is wonderfully artistic – much more than I am – and has easily learned to express himself through multiple art forms, including music.  He is physically strong and coordinated, excelling on a skateboard, with a quick mental and physical grasp that I could not demonstrate at his age.

He loves books, as I do, and will routinely place a dozen on hold at the library, reading parts of several of them, but finishing few before losing interest or racking up overdue fines.  He loves possessing books as much as reading them, just like I do.

He has a temper, thankfully less flammable than mine. He procrastinates, as I do, tending to be late and slow to move and slow to draw conclusions, as I am.

Will has some characteristics, though, which I’m sure I did not have at his age, and may not have yet.  His heart leans toward righteousness; it is readily corrected when out of line, and constantly bows in pursuit of justice, service, and love.  I am simply overwhelmed by the way he humbly accepts even my over-bearing wrath, at times.  He is sincerely contrite.

We are learning this thing together, this father and son game.  We are not skilled in these arts, yet, and we struggle, mutually, to find ground fit for walking along this route.

I am reassured, though, through this thirteenth year, at least, that Will has not been broken.  The stuff God has put in him is tenacious and enduring, and has not yet succumbed to the weaknesses of this family or this world.  It lingers in hope and longing for expression.

My hope, in addition to finding words to convey the depth of my love for him, is to find the strength to keep fighting, even against myself when necessary, to free him – to free the gifts that God has endowed upon him, setting them loose for the benefit of us all, without breaking him in the process.

Oh, God, I love that boy!  Oh, wow, I love him so much!

5 thoughts on “free Will”

  1. You know it’s funny- I saw the title of the post, and I saw Will’s face on a killer whale’s body in mid air and in slow motion.

    You know what Dale? (this is said in humor, but is quite sad)
    You are not cool.
    You stop him from recklessness; you hold him to structure and discipline; you inform him of his laziness; you call him to a higher standard; you prompt him to think outside himself in a world hell-bent on creating isolative mooks, and in your shadow, he feels short and clumsy…humbled.

    in 8 years or so, you are going to be the coolest Dad in the world.


  2. I echo ‘rerendered’ above. Thanks for your honesty and the words you did find to describe Will. We can relate with two teenaged sons – both with very differing personalities.


  3. I was once a strong-willed artistic-type teenager with parents who were too hard on me and I can tell you this: I didn’t get enough love. That is not to say that my parents didn’t love me enough, but I needed hugs and kisses and presents (even though it wasn’t my birthday) and I needed them in spades. We artistic-types know that we are different and hate that we don’t belong while simultaneously trying to separate ourselves from the pack. My advice: If you don’t know what to do, hug him. If you still don’t know what to do, take him out for ice cream. Still confused? Hug him again. It won’t solve all your problems but it will go miles in letting him know that he belongs.


  4. Nathan – It’s funny, I’ve been hugging Will a lot more lately, without so many words. I’ll take your advice and look forward to the ice cream.


  5. Discipline without breaking. That is the key isn’t it? My kids all entirely different. Of course I know I’ve completely messed up the first. Thats a given. But still. trying to parent. Trying to parent in a Godly way. Trying to raise them to be better then yourself and everything that your not. Geesh, had I known all this never a kid would I have had. Way too stressful and heartwrenching. But yet…. Still a couple years away from the teenage years. Thanks for the warning. Oh and did you know you can have your blog printed and bound? well, you can. And I think you should. You know, for the kids someday.


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