Fifteen years ago today, my son came into the world, and my God, life took such a left turn afterward. In a good way, if unpredictable.
Our daughter was just over three years old, and really, had been the model baby and toddler. Quiet, neat, gentle on her toys…it was like the set-up to the punchline that is my son. And again, I don’t mean that in a negative way, more of a holy-crap-we-didn’t-see-THAT-one-coming way.
Ignoring some of the more obvious signs–that we’ll touch on in a minute–my son’s delivery was much less frantic and traumatic than our daughter’s. She took 36 long…slow…torturous hours to make her grand entrance. His was a third of that. And when he did come, it was just so relaxed.
But, he was born on Friday the 13th. 8 pounds, 13 ounces. About 13 hours of labour. And the room my wife recovered in? 1313.
No, no signs of future trouble there. Uh-uh. Nope.
He was special right from the beginning. The first grandson on my wife’s side, following a sister and four female cousins.
But he was also…just…such a boy! Madison never put anything in her mouth as a toddler. Not even a soother. With him, friggin’ everything went in that sloppy hole. But his favourite thing seemed to be rocks picked up from the driveway. Not one or two rocks at a time, mind you. A mouthful. Crammed tight.
There was an afternoon just after he’d learned to walk that I was making lunch for him and his sister. She came into the kitchen at one point, complaining that her brother was trying to hit her with a stick. I looked at her disbelievingly. “Madison,” I said in my still relatively new parent voice. “A stick? There’s no sticks in the living room. Now stop trying to get your brother in trouble and go back out there and play while I get lunch ready.” She dutifully trotted off.
Minutes later, she came back in the kitchen. Crying. With a red, very stick-like line on her face. “What happened?” I asked.
“He hit me.”
“Yeah,” she said. “With a stick!”
I went out to the living room and there was my son. With a stick in his hand. Smiling. I know what you’re thinking, but in my defense, technically I was correct. There were no sticks in the living room. My son found one…by ripping off a section of trim from our wall unit.
He later went on to duplicate the stick thing with the slats in the crib, breaking through those like he was bustin’ outta Alcatraz. If they ever remake the movie The Rock, my son could play the lead.
Because his escape talents didn’t stop at crib bars. Oh no. He was soon hopping the crib barriers to get out. When he graduated to a kid bed, we were still concerned about him making mischief through the house. So we put up a kid gate at his door.
He woke me up the next morning by slapping my forehead while stating, quite proudly, “I’m OUT!”
So we put another gate above that first one. Climb over two of them smartypants, I thought. He woke me up again the next morning by slapping my forehead while stating, again quite proudly, “I’m OUT!”
Yeah, he’d simply managed to push that second one high enough that he could slip between them.
When I managed to lock them together, he overturned his toy buckets to get out. Though he couldn’t really verbalize it, I got the message loud and clear: There ain’t a prison built that I can’t bust out of.
Things didn’t really change as he grew.
The biggest things to know about my son is that he’s a creative spirit that needs to understand how things work. To put it another way, he likes to tear things apart. And he’s never been a colour-inside-the-lines kid.
Every parent thinks their kid is brilliant. But we know he is. When teachers were lazily writing him off in school (ironically, because they considered him lazy), we ran him through a battery of tests. The testers, when talking about his performance, typically looked at us wide-eyed, shaking their heads. They’d never seen a kid perform so well on some of the tests. He got answers right they’d never seen done before. He did it all in his head, multi-part math questions and spatial problems that made my brain sweat to think of determining an answer.
And he’d just shrug. It’s the way he works. So, he wasn’t lazy, as those lazy teachers thought. The explanation for his performance that’s always stuck with me is this one: Imagine you’ve just bought a high-performance sports car. Now imagine you’re driving it off the lot, itching to experience some speed. Now imagine everytime you drive it, you’re faced with nothing but speed bumps.
That’s what my son was facing. Not laziness. Speed bumps.
And now, at fifteen and virtually the same height as me, my baby boy now at the cusp of being a very handsome man, it’s his mind that fascinates me. He sees things so differently at times, makes some of the most incredible connections.
And his sense of humour never fails to absolutely flatten me. Aside from my best friend, my son is the only other one I can count on to say something so unexpected, so funny, and so out of left field, that he leaves me teary-eyed and gasping for breath from the belly laughs.
He’s never going to be your typical, normal guy. And there’s times it pains me knowing the tough road he will face at times with a mind and personality like his. But I look at him and all I see is vast, unlimited possibilities.
Like I said, fifteen years ago, life took a left turn. And we’ve been lead down some incredible roads since then. We’ve been shown amazing wonderful things. All from our Friday the Thirteenth kid.
And, challenging as it’s been, it’s also been a hell of a fun ride. I eagerly look forward to what’s next.
I just hope it’s better than eating rocks.
Happy Birthday, Hunter. I love you, dude.