26 May 2005

Happy Birthday, Kaleb

The Jenius has a son. His name is Kaleb and today he is 5 years old. He is at that magical age when his every emotion is honest, his curiosity seems limitless and his potential is taking shape. He is my son. I love him dearly. And I am afraid.

He knows very little about the world around him, but more than I think he does. His world is undergoing major changes and he faces them alone, for he has neither the words nor the perspective to ask the right questions. He needs to learn more, and I try to guide him, but forcing him will get us nowhere: Kaleb will learn at his own pace, in his own way, so that what he gains in information can become internalized as knowledge.

I know he is feeling anxious and he expresses it as anger and frustration. I ask so much of him, forgetting he is only five years old. I want so much to protect him, to shield him from all pain, but that is not love: it is dominance through fear. My fears are not his, nor should they be. And yet, because he loves me, they are.

I ask so much of myself, trying to be the perfect father, forgetting that Kaleb doesn't need perfection. He needs a father, an example of strength as well as an example of human frailty. Someone who laughs with him and listens, who expresses happiness and anger, who celebrates victory and shrugs off defeat, though pain may slow that process to a crawl. A father who makes mistakes and admits them, who can say "I was wrong" and "I'm sorry" with humility, not vengeance. A father who will let him grow as his own man, secure in his own self-knowledge and confident that he will always have Dad at his side.

We have shared more, Kaleb and I, than I ever shared with my father. He was of a different time and era, one where fathers loomed atop Mount Olympus and deeded out their time as seeds from a dwindling harvest. He knew no other way. I do. One would think that more time with a baby, then toddler and pre-schooler, would quell the fear We as parents tend to feel. It hasn't. If anything, my fear is sharper. Oddly, the fear is not that Kaleb will fail, for he already shows abilities The Jenius took until adulthood to develop: the fear is that I--that Our generation--will fail him and all the other children whose future now depends on Us.

On a recent trip to San Juan, I returned home past midnight. The house was quiet and I looked in to see Kaleb sleeping. As I was writing notes about the work I had done and would do the next day, Kaleb emerged from his room, stumbling slightly in his sleepy walk and gave me a hug, resting his head upon my shoulder and sighing. He gave me a kiss and stumbling slightly in his sleepy walk, he went back to bed. His world was right again; Dad was home.

That may not be the truth for much longer. Kaleb, sometimes I may let you down as a father. Not because I want to, but because I make mistakes. You will probably forgive me far faster and more often than I forgive myself. And sometimes, I may let you down as a man, as an example of what an adult should be in this ever-changing world. Again, I am human. But although I may let you down, I will never fail you. I can only fail you if I quit, if I give up and simply let the world pass me by, a limp body by the roadside to the Future. For as long as I can, I will try to make a difference. And when it is Your Turn to start making a difference, I hope We can do it together.

Happy Birthday, Kaleb. I love you and I always will. May Our Road always be shared.

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