thinking about isaac

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:40 am by Administrator

my son is 4 and a half years old now. the other day, i gave him a series of words from which he could choose a single adjective that best describes himself. from the options—including “nice”, “smart”, “playful”, “creative”, “handsome”—he chose the word “winner”. i thought it was a true choice for him. because whether he is racing with me to get to the car, or waging a war of wills with me at bedtime, or trying to slap my hand without getting caught in my grasp, isaac is always keen on winning.

when i think about isaac, there are many words i would use to describe him, such as funny, perceptive, and intelligent. but just as isaac gravitated to “winner”, i seize upon the idea of “potential”. i look at isaac, and my instinct is to think of his incredible potential.

it is an ingrained concept, i’m realizing. isaac as a young child represents not only the life he has but the life that he will become. it is for this reason that most everyone who speaks of him—his family and the friends of his family—uses the future tense. isaac “will” be good at music and dancing; he “will” have a mind of his own; he “will” be just like his father. complicit in this drive toward his seemingly promising destination, my wife and i talk about his schooling and his extra-curricular opportunities. we speculate on what he will like, as if it is not enough for him to have preferences and diversions. isaac, like us, must become formed. his training and education must manifest itself in skills, accomplishments, and areas of expertise.

the other day, when my wife encouraged isaac to eat more of his dinner “in order to get big”, isaac announced that he had no desire to grow big. he said, “i don’t want to get big because i don’t want to die, and also if i get big then i will get bored of Thomas.” we then had a short discussion about death and the nature of heaven, which did not dissuade isaac from his intention to remain small for the foreseeable future.

whatever i imagine my ideals to be, the rubber meets the road when it comes to my son. there are two sides to me, as i grapple with the great unknown of his future. there is the side of me that says that isaac must be equipped to win the great battle of life. it is my role to empower isaac to do what the battle calls for: transcending obstacles, shaming his detractors, and gaining power over himself and his enemies. the other side of me says that in fact isaac is not an extension of myself. he is just another human being, who happens to have come from the womb of my wife. his children will forget who i am; expressing my legacy through his life is unimportant. what matters is not isaac’s “success” in any imaginable sense but rather the quality of the relationship that i build with him. among many things i could potentially control in his life, this may be the most important of them all.

isaac doesn’t want to “get big”, and i understand that. whether i like it or not, the process of aging will put to death the child that he is today; the man he will become, if he lives that long, will be foreign to what he is now. he will tire of his Thomas trains; he will suffer anguish; he will realize how much his life is defined by the daily struggle to overcome his own limitations. but here, before all of this, i would like to imagine that isaac is right—that he can choose when to change, choose what to win, and choose how to win it all.

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