Tag Archives: fatherhood

What makes a boy?: A reflection.

My son turned six yesterday. Six years ago he was born into this world. In those half a dozen years, this is about the only thing I’ve learned definitively about being a father: No cliche is ever more true than the cliches of parenthood.

My world has changed? Check.

I couldn’t imagine my life without him? Check.

I think my kid is the smartest, bravest, best behaved? Check.

Well, let’s back up here.

Kyan is a bright kid — as smart, sympathetic and brave as the next one. Well behaved? Well sometimes. He can be a wild, untamed beast of a devil, free to follow only his own whims and cares. These last few weeks of school, after holiday break, the Wild Thing within him has lurked more closely to the surface. But is this not also a cliche? Is this not what it means to be a boy? Perhaps.

I know this much. To be a boy is to declare at some point in your life, like Ky did recently, that a dog is your “best buddy:”

It is to be mischievious:

It is to be creative:

It is to smile the biggest when you’re with your dad:

And it is, finally, to become your dad, for better or worse:

When talking about a boy, doesn’t it always come back to his father?

Believe it or not, that is my dad above, to the right, a few years younger than I am now, though looking far more like me than he has in any picture I’ve seen. Looking at this picture the other day, I had never felt more like my father. And I consider that a success.

In high school, most of my wardrobe consisted of my father’s old clothes. In fact, one of my favorite shirts was the one he’s wearing in this picture. I wear a beard today mainly because my dad did through most of my childhood. There was no one I looked up to more than my father, and I always thought if I was half the dad he was, I’d be a pretty decent dad.

Even knowing the sins of my father now, like I do, I still hold this outlook.

I had a conversation with my childhood best friend the other day about our fathers. About how we see them in a different light now that we’re older. But his viewpoint differed from my own. I admire my dad more now, knowing his faults. He is flawed, yes, but my picture of him is truer than ever. And that makes me love him more.

It’s ironic, though. Every parent’s ambition is for their kids to surpass them, to live a better life than they had as a child, and to become a better man or woman than they are. And yet, my boy, just as I did, wants nothing more than to be exactly like his father. I recognize the way Kyan looks at me, for I too once looked at my father the same way. And yet, when I look at him, it is with hope that he will be better than me. For my sins are many and my flaws could fill an ocean. And Kyan, he has so much potential — beast and all. That is what I see, just as that is what my father saw in me.

It’s impossible to not put so much of our own hopes into our children. For that’s the way of the final and most absolute of the parenthood cliches, and I’m obligated to carry on the tradition.