|Q: Your (older) son's antics and how he shaped you
A: I didn’t realize it before thinking about your question, but upon introspection/retrospection, I realize that my son has changed me in every way possible ever since he was born.
A few minutes after my son was born, he opened his eyes and looked at me directly as I gently held him in my arms and sang to him. It was my first time being a father and that gentle moment as he looked at me, processing my presence, warmth and voice is indescribable. He had always been alert and aware of his surroundings, looking at everyone and everything around him as he processes the world. As he grew, it became clear that he is naturally very social. From the time when he was an infant and uttered excited noises, slobbering with drool, trying to interact with an older girl, to his casual but genuinely cheerful greetings to everyone around him at SakuraCon, church, family gatherings, and general public, he has no problems liking people and being liked by people (in fact, we’ve grown to be suspicious of people he doesn’t like). There were a few times when he is at the play area playing with a girl he had never met before when I thought he was going to get his first kiss because she obviously liked him a lot. Without realizing it, I had suddenly become accustomed to seeking out social interaction opportunities, became friends with strangers who adores him, and became perceived as an extrovert.
It was also clear early on that he enjoys eating and has, for better or worse, inherited my high metabolism. For the first year or two of his life, he regularly nursed every hour almost to the minute. Among his first solid food was mashed filet mignon that he gummed when we celebrated our anniversary at Palisade. Because he was frequently in the top 90+ percentile for height, weight, and head circumference, I did not notice that he has my high metabolism until one night I found him shoving fistfuls of cereal into his mouth in an attempt to stay awake (his body and mine converts food to energy fast enough for this to work). Because he likes to eat, we made sure to always have plenty of healthy and high quality food options. Before I knew it, I had also gotten used to eating fruits, vegetables, and yogurt – all things that I rarely ate before my son was born.
As anyone who has ever been around him can testify, he also has an incredible amount of energy, creativity, and enthusiasm. He actually figured out how to walk by holding on to a pod and pushing it before he learned how to crawl. Of course once he learned how to crawl, he quickly learned to climb as well as strategically positioning smaller objects (e.g. boxes) to climb to higher platforms (e.g. the dining table). When he was about a year and a half, he systematically pressed buttons on the XBOX 360 controller to figure out what it does on the screen as well as testing scenarios involving pausing the game and/or taking off the battery to figure out the various user scenario flows. And for as long as he has been able to throw items, he always had eerily accurate aim as whatever he throws seem to simply make it to his desired location (e.g. our face) provided it’s not too heavy for him to throw. It seems he is as comfortable with his physical abilities as he is with building intricate patterns and design (e.g. using Lego and other objects) and solving puzzles in video games. Of course this also means that I end up spending a lot of time with him, often thinking up physical activities we can do together (e.g. swimming, going to the park or zoo) as well as video games to play together (e.g. Plants vs. Zombies, Lego games).
Last but not least, my interaction with him has given me a lot of insight for my own interaction with my Father in Heaven. He often tests the limits with us, seeing whether we would be more lenient to his wishes or if we are willing to bargain with him. Even as a toddler, he would get this mischievous look as he reaches for something he shouldn’t (e.g. our cell phone) to see how we would react. Sometimes, if we let him reach the object, he would be jubilant but quickly give it to us when we ask for it. Other times, he would grab the item and immediately run away or throwing it down on the floor (which might warrant him a time out). As he gets older and begins to understand the books we (primarily my wife) reads to him, he also began to ask a lot more philosophical questions, such as life and death, suffering in the world, our role in helping out the less fortunate, and where God fits in all this. It’s fascinating to see the world from his perspective as well as figure out how to explain our values and beliefs to him. Because we trained him from an early age to make his own decision and think for himself, it is sometimes frustrating when he insists on something incorrect (e.g. insisting that salmon is not “fish” because he likes salmon and not “fish”). Sometimes it is amusing, as he doubtfully asked me “are you sure that’s how it works?” when I explained to him that sometimes it helps to take a break from solving a difficult problem and coming back to it with a clear head (his tenacity tends to lead him to work out problems for very long stretches of time until he solves it). In general, though, it is encouraging to know that while he trusts us, he is open to reassessing his reality when new information is found.
Soapbox message: While I fully expected to learn from my child as I impart my life and thoughts to him, I did not realize that the lessons would come and affect my life from the moment he was born or that he would help shape me into a better person in every way. Will you let your child shape you into a better person even as you lead them in the way they should go?