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.
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!