Last weekend I celebrated Cameron’s 7th birthday with a “cake” made of Snicker bar and marshmallows surrounded by graham cracker and chocolate. In Cam’s words, this was, literally, “the best cake ever!” We were on a fishing trip and were in desperate need of spending some serious time together. I can’t articulate just how precious this time together was. On Sunday, Father’s Day, after a long day of packing up camp, fishing, and traveling home, Cam presented me with a list of 10 things he loves about me, his dad. I know their teachers make them do this stuff, but wow is it ever effective in melting hearts! Anyways, after coming down from the clouds, I realized I often tell Cam I love him, yes, but I’m sure I spend far more time telling him to fix this, or to change that about himself, or to stop always doing this or asking for that or carrying on about this or treating your brother like that…. And on and on it goes.
It’s easy to have the truth of my love lost in the messaging of trying to better my child along his way. The truth is, it gets tiresome, even for me. I can’t imagine how the brain of a 7 year old processes this: “You love me? Why do you spend 95% of your time telling me to be different? What is it, exactly, that you say you “love” me so much for?”
If I’m honest, it’s a fair question. Let’s talk about that just for a sec.
The obvious, and most true answer, of course, is because he’s my son and by virtue of being my son he has inherited my love whether he earned it or not. I love him because I made him. I love him because I’ve been entrusted with his life. I don’t know, I guess truthfully, I don’t have the words to fully describe the rationale for this foundational love between father and son other than to say it’s as real as the tiny fingers that wrapped around mine that June 18th, 7 years ago. (Sorry, should have given a heads up on the flying cheese ball.)
The truth is, though, sometimes hearing “I love you because you’re my son” doesn’t instil the sense of value and worth in us that we all long for – particularly when every “I love you” is accompanied with a dozen “you need to work on this.” We want to be validated in our lives, to have our love feel like it’s “deserved.” Don’t get me wrong, it is a lovely thought to hear that I am loved by my parents–or even by God, for that matter–because I’m their/His child. And it is imperative that we contemplate the depth of such truths. Absolutely.
But the reality, in my experience at least, is that in a functional manner we need to know that who we are matters. That what we do, counts. That our love is, dare I say, perceived as properly acquired. So it must begin, on some foundational level, as a love that stems from whose we are but it functions on a practical level as love that stems from who we are. Make sense?
So with that, I want to brag a bit about my now 7 year old son, Cameron: a kid for whom my love is already well-established and of which it could never be stripped but yet who, as a bonus, by virtue of all that this little person is, has more than “earned” this love. As a response to the 10 things I love about Dad, here are 10 things I love about my amazing son, Cameron:
- Cam is a voracious reader. Almost every morning I will wake up to him sitting under a lamp on the couch reading a dinosaur encyclopedia, a novel, or some shark fact book. When I was his age, I woke up, turned the TV on and watched cartoons ’til my parents told me to get dressed.
- Stemming from this, Cam is disciplined and legitimately loves to learn. He has a scholar’s work ethic, having completed a number of self-directed “studies” on different animal species in the last year or two. Not only is he copying information down, but he’s processing it and you can tell he’s seeking to understand, for instance, exactly how the Utahraptor devoured its prey or the difference between a stingray and a manta ray.
- Cam is cautious, but yet confronts his fears. He weighs the risks before moving forward, but he usually moves forward. I remember how proud I was when I suggested he try the Thunder Slide at the Complex. I know when I was his age the thought of going on the slide paralyzed me. Not Cam. He did his swim test to show he could handle the swimming and then burst up the stairs and came down the slide 6 times without as much as a hesitation. I admire this in Cam ’cause Lord knows his Daddy sure isn’t like this!
- Accompanying his flair for risk, Cam embraces the world as it comes to him. He doesn’t shy away from new experiences and is eager to discover more. We were snorkeling in the Bahamas last year and encountered a giant barracuda. My inclination was to get into the boat, Cam, knowing of course that ‘cudas rarely attack humans, wanted to get closer. Come on!
- Cam wants to learn to do things on his own. Often my impatience prevents this from happening – and it’s something I’m working on – but Cam sees me doing something for him and then wants to try stuff. What’s particularly beautiful about this is that even when he fails at it, yes there are the freak-outs, but often what follows is a more concerted effort to figure it out. I love his persistence and the natural sense of accomplishment that I know he gets when he succeeds.
- Cam’s musical. He follows after his mom in this regard, which is something I’ve always admired about Rhonda, too. I’m glad Cam has this natural ability as it definitely doesn’t come natural to me. He plays the piano and sings. One of my favourite things is sneakily watching him rap along with LeCrae when he thinks no one is watching.
- He’s growing in empathy and it really encourages me. On his birthday last weekend I was telling him his birth story and getting all choked up. He told his mother and I afterward that he also was having a hard time holding back the tears listening to me tell the story. Yes! I love that I have a sensy…. in the making! I hope Cam will always embrace his emotional side and allow it to grow and mature and just hone it.
- Cam asks the best questions. He’s a deep thinker. We do our Bible reading at night and he’s always got a question that forces me to have to go beyond pat answers. I hope this too will always continue and that he’ll never just accept things without serious inquiry – especially the big things like God and meaning and morality. I’m similar in this way and I hope we’ll always have a connection of exploring the deeper matters of life together.
- He’s vulnerable. Yep. Not always – I mean, he’s 7 – but I think he sees the value in letting his guard down and being real. He instinctively understands that dealing with things internally and bottling it up isn’t a healthy way to move forward. Being vulnerable is something more mature, older people do, so to have this inclination as a kid is a really positive sign, in my book, that Cam will have positive, healthy relationships in his latter years.
- His sense of humour. Seriously, he takes after his old man here – who, by the way, is a riot. Cam’s starting to get sarcasm and satire and figuring out timing and even dropping the odd pun here and there. It’s fun to watch this form of intelligence develop in mah boy. Few things make me prouder and give me hope than having a kid who knows funny.
There you have it – 10 things I love about this kid. I know, you wish you had a kid like this too don’t you? I’m a fortunate dad. I gotta say it is a joy–usually ;)–to be his father, as it is a joy to be a dad to all our kids. I’m not so naïve as to think we won’t have tough times ahead because there is a lot of me that I see in Cam and that’s not always such a good thing, but I have all these slivers of hope shining through that instil in me this confidence that things will be alright.