Spring has finally sprung, more or less, in the frozen steppes that make up West Michigan. It is rumored that a minor cold snap is coming, but we have had mid 70 degree weather for the last few days. It has been glorious.
My older son, my 11-year-old, spent hours this afternoon jumping on a neighbor's trampoline. Super fun. We are lucky to have a handful of good-natured neighborhood kids for him to run with.
I was watching, thinking about how his life is so different from how mine was at his age. The trampoline was completely encircled in a protective net. The net is a decent metaphor for how protected his life has been. A metaphor for my childhood would have been laughing kids on a rusted out sliding board with a wasp nest underneath.
We have been very careful with my son. He didn't come to us easily. We struggled with miscarriages and tubal pregnancies and all the heartbreak anyone should have to stand trying to love someone into existence. We had just about given up when he was conceived. We were worried the entire time my wife carried him. Surprisingly, the pregnancy was nearly perfect, as was his birth. He has been a hardy, cheerful and robust child. Tonsillitis got him down sporadically for a few months a couple of years ago, but when the tonsils were gone, he went back to being hale and fit. He has been sick few enough times to count on fingers.
But he doesn't get out much. He gets outside with friends, but he has never willfully done anything I would consider dangerous. He has never stung by a honeybee by trying to catch it (though he did get nailed by a yellowjacket while he was minding his own business). I am certain that by 11 I had been stung at least 11 times by honeybees, trying to put them in jars, or catch them by the wings (which you can do if you are really careful), or by stepping on them. I had friends that deliberately stirred up bees, as sort of a man-vs-nature contest. The combatants included their parents, too. I grew up around fun, crazy, risk-loving nuts.
My son hasn't had stitches or ripped out a scar, or had a bike crash, or had to get a tetanus shot from stepping on something. I, amazingly, did not break any bones other than toes, so we're almost even there. But lordy, I tried.
No, this child has always been prudent. Not cowardly, but brave in a prepared and sober way. Very reasonable, honest, and very principled. I am very proud, even as I marvel at him.
Our second child is 2 at the moment. We had plenty of heartache and trouble on the way to him, too. Like his brother, his gestation was without incident, as was his birth. And so far, he has been hale and hardy.
But this one is also very different from his brother. He is recklessly curious, willing to take physical risks to get in or onto something. He is not showing signs of his brother's willingness to be reasonable or careful. He appears to be trying to learn something most of the time, but is very impatient and moody. He is delightful. Even, if not especially, when he is being stubborn. He's tough and hardheaded, and laughs a lot. He shares those qualities with his whole family. I don't think he'll tolerate us trying to protect him like we did his older brother.
The best part of fatherhood in my eyes is getting to lead these youngsters out into the world and help them poke at it, and learn about it. They are restlessly curious, even the more serene of the two, which is something we can share.