I’m taking my high school sophomore eldest son shopping for some dress clothes after he watches his track team practice tonight. He’s watching because he hurt his foot last week but knows his presence is important from a team standpoint. He needs these new threads because he and his friend, a kid I took with my first ever draft pick in my first ever little league draft for my first ever baseball coaching job based on nothing at all but a catchy sounding name, have made it to state for their school’s DECA competition. Despite it being just about 30 minutes away I was told no, just like when I wanted to watch him compete on the chess club in junior high, this was not a spectator event. Ok. Whatever. DECA is a business thing where him and his buddy came up with an investment proposal and plan to help someone work through until retirement with other financial options and such. As always, I am very proud.
But still, this is my oldest. My first. I was a stay at home dad for 10 years starting with him. Well before I ever even knew I was even going to go to college later in life. The satisfaction I derived from hearing him relay his new found wisdom that the bathtub toy Cookie Monster he was playing with was indeed blue in color and that the magnetic plastic “A” he was placing at a sideways angle was a green “C” (close, he knows all 26 now, but it was green) was the lightning bolt that put me on my path as an educator. What a feeling teaching a little person something they’ll know forever is! I’ve never done meth but, like, I get the whole addiction thing. That’s how strong the pull was.
Every day from infant times until his brother showed up four years later it was him and I. His vocabulary growing all the while. His mannerisms from – giggly play slaps on cheeks that melted into caresses where his eyes switched from wild hysterics to focused wonder over the contours of, I guess, my facial hair or new realizations of skull structure – to confident strides toward the swings at the park without the harnesses because he can pump his own legs now so I can push little brother. Walks, the park, grocery store, weekly Blockbuster video runs for both of us, breakfast and lunch and baths and appropriate seasonal outdoor activities with our handy stroller, blasting music in a minivan going for coffee and cookies or visiting my grandma. Ugh. Us two. Everyday. All day. Shut up, you’re crying in a classroom at a keyboard.
He likes my music now like he didn’t have a choice to back then. We have the same favorite band. There’s a huge swath of music I dig that he doesn’t and vice versa. He’s hip with his crowd. He uses my Spotify so I see all the stuff I try but don’t really want to understand I guess. Let him make his own mistakes, or find his own gems. I got tons of tunes from my music loving dad but he thought Metallica was satanic. Where my Wu Tang and Kendrick stop and his Lil This n That or Whatever rappers begin is his Metallica and that’s cool. He loves weird movies and stand up comedy like I do. Politics and sports, global causes. I definitely see my imprint on him but he has his own stuff too and of that I am glad.
But he shaves. And vaguely likes this girl and I’ve seen hints that he follows his old man’s footsteps as the mixtape n poetry kind of sad sack luckless starry eyed romantic dreamer and i don’t wish that on him. And he’s about to get his license. And he’s half a foot taller than me and about 20 pounds heavier. And every day he walks further away from those first four years where my world was us. All day. Every day. And I’m not sure if knowing I taught him to walk helps or makes it worse.