So let me tell you about my son.
He is 13 years old with that “Puberty is almost here” roundness and stench. He has me dye his normally dark brown hair black with a green forelock. He is on the lego robotics team and writes most of their scripts for exhibitions. He gets astoundingly good grades in all his classes, except the two he doesn’t like, where he is in danger of failing. (Gifted, it seems, only when he enjoys a topic.) He is a sugar ‘ho and loves all things sweet: Soda, candy, slushies, ice cream, cake, even jello. He loves comic books, especially Ant Man. In fact, i think he’s a bit infatuated with Ant Man. He lives for computer games. He’s a devotee of Top Gear. He has memorized whole episodes of the Simpsons. He can fake battle with a lightsaber better than Mace Windu himself. He likes Panic at the Disco and FallOut Boy, but can also sing along to my corny music and an impressive array of show tunes. Like most other kids his age, he’s a mixed bag.
On one hand, he is intelligent, adorable, funny and sweet. He’s a seanachie since birth and can tell stories on a whim. Occasionally, the stories are true, but he’ll never tell you which ones aren’t. (For months, our apartment manager thought we were British, because he always spoke with a Brit accent when he went by the office.) He has a beautiful singing voice. A flair for acting. And the kid loves to perform. He can make you laugh without even trying. He’s just naturally funny. He has a great vocabulary and can converse with professors as easily as pre-schoolers. He usually does his chores without much reminding. He knows when and how to hug. He has no social fear, or at least never shows any. And he doesn’t give a flip about what other people think.
On the other hand, he’s messy. His bedroom smells like a long-forgotten gym locker. Every damned pair of pants he puts in the wash have exactly one leg inside out. He will sleep in clothes and wear them the next day. He doesn’t notice when he misses the bowl. He peppers the apartment with dirty socks as if it’s a damned caeser salad. He scrapes the healthy part of dinner into the trash when i’m not looking. Fresh out of the bath, he still smells like pubescent boy hormones and sweat. He cops a rotten attitude, talks back, and has a terrible temper.
But i still think i did ok with him.
Every now and then he gives me a glimpse of the man he will become. The morals, the compass, the humor, and the love inside him. He shows kindness without thinking, he helps without asking. Or he quips at just the right time. At those moments, i know that, in spite of the anarchy and chaos that is my 13 year old boy, he will be ok in the end.
We had a moment like that the other day. We had a little thing to celebrate, and so went to the park, got ourselves some ice cream floats, and strolled. We came across a street preacher. He had his Bibled hand raised and was shouting fire and brimstone. We’re all going to hell! Homosexuals, inter-racial mixing, and liberal Democrats are paving the way to Hades! Turn away from the abominations! Now, we are not church-going people, but my son stopped as we got closer to the man and said, “You know, maybe i should be a preacher.”
“Son, you generally have to be religious to be a preacher.”
“I’m serious! I can be a preacher. I know what God wants.”
He shoves his float in my hand, says, “Watch this, ” and heads toward the sidewalk corner. Up on the edge he perches and raises his fist.
“Hey, everyone! Listen up! I have a message from God! Seriously! This is important! God wants to tell you something!”
The street preacher stops and stares. A couple passers-bye look up.
“Stop being assholes! Start being nice to each other! That is all.”
He climbs down and takes his float back. “See?” he says.
The street preacher, dumbfounded, departs. A couple people clap. I am speechless at first, but eventually reply, “I don’t know that i would word it quite that way, but i do think you’ve got the gist of it.”
We are both smiling as we walk and sip. Tho others may be horrified, i am swelling with pride. My stinky, messy, green-haired, selectively-gifted, bad-bathroom aiming boy gets it. He gets it. I must have done something right.
Yup, he’ll be just fine.