One of the realities of being a parent is that, despite common genetics and environmental factors, you are never exactly sure whom you will be getting in that little bundle of joy. And certainly, if you decide to try it more than once, eventually you will be tested.
Brian has been our test.
We were almost spoiled by our first foray into parenthood. Michael came with his own set of challenges. But once we understood what the issues were, they were fairly easy to manage. Our eldest turned out to be the most independent, outgoing, and at times the most maddening. But what we faced the first go around paled in comparison to what awaited us with the second heir.
- One night while attending his older brother’s little league game, Brian wandered off with some girls from school. He might have been six or seven. I’m freaking out because it’s dark and he’s nowhere to be found. After calling Carol to let her know he’s MIA (Never a conversation you want to have with your wife.), I hop in the car and start driving around the neighborhood. Serendipitously, I get a glimpse of this shadowy silhouette in a rowhouse picture window, a kid’s backlit profile with a microphone in his hand in mid-song. I knew immediately – as only a parent would – who that silhouette belonged to. Target captured! He had gone to one of the girl’s home, and was entertaining!
- Get a call one day at work. My mother, who watched the boys when both Carol and I worked, frantic. Brian had impulsively lit a paper on the stove as she was cooking dinner. Had panicked and dropped it on the floor burning the linoleum floor, but fortunately nothing else.
- The time he kicked his younger brother out of a fire truck driver’s seat to the concrete floor six feet below because it was “his turn” at the wheel!
- The night I had to stealthily shadow his travels when he decided it was time to run away from home due to parental discipline.
- The day he walked into the principle’s office demanding a classroom transfer because he didn’t like his first-grade teacher.
- Or the time he knocked for a friend to find he wasn’t home. Plopped on a curb to await his return; tired of the wait; found a nail laying on the street; and decided to Etch-A-Sketch a neighbor’s car door.
Brian has been the most demanding … and in ways, the most rewarding.
With him we faced early developmental issues that proved to be troubling but manageable, even as they were scary to us as relatively new parents. His problems were never debilitating, nor nearly as serious as other parents face. They just required a greater level of management from infancy through his school years. His mother took the brunt of that responsibility, for which Brian and I should forever be grateful.
Brian was also blessed with a personality that could shine through all the problems, and made all the hard work worth the effort and anxiety. He’s always had a gift for making us laugh; shake our heads in amazement; and at times give his teachers bouts of agita. Friends and family would tell to us how personable, confident, and entertaining he could be.
Of course those traits were not always strengths within the conforming environment of a classroom. And they tend to make you stand out among your peers, making you a target for the punks and dunces. In the end, it tends to tamper with your personality and self-confidence.
Little has come easy for Brian. Yet he keeps plugging along.
It’s difficult as a parent sometimes, because you want to fix everything for him. But he’s an adult now, so you have to back off. You want him to learn how to fight his own battles. You keep encouraging him though; pushing him to break through the barriers he faces on his own. And certainly, Brian has progressed in many ways but at his own pace.
Brian’s greatest strength is that he has the character, the intelligence and the work ethic to make the most of his life. He never ceases to impress us with his capabilities, once he sets his mind to doing something. And the sky would be the limit, if he could simply reach back and drag that confident, free-spirited kid from his past into his present. He has great things ahead of him. There is nothing he cannot do. And anyone would benefit from the opportunity to know him. Of this I have no doubt.
No, your children are never identical. They rarely present you with the same challenges, the same rewards, the same problems, or the same blessings. But I’m convinced that if you give them the time they need, the encouragement they crave, and the love they deserve, they will make you proud.
Happy Birthday, Brian!
Love, Mom and Dad