When I first saw my oldest son, he was tiny, bright purple and extremely angry.
Evan was born in an emergency C-section after a long and excruciating labor for my wife, in which he became stuck and refused to budge. He was already a week or more past his due date when doctors induced labor.
Even as a fetus, he had already established his lifelong disinclination to be rushed into anything for which he was not ready.
He grew into a solemn, reserved little boy (who was neither purple nor angry past his first moments of life). He didn’t talk much, but when he did it was always something interesting or dryly funny. His first complete sentence, as far as I know, came when he was sitting on a merry-go-round in Griffith Park in Los Angeles some time before his second birthday. He was looking off into space with his customary expression of serious contemplation and he said, to nobody in particular, “I’m so happy.”
I wasn’t sure I had heard him correctly and I asked him to repeat it, but he declined to talk any more for the rest of the ride.
As he got older, he excelled in school and rarely got in trouble. The only serious incident I can recall was in kindergarten, when he and another boy were caught climbing under bathroom stall doors and locking them from the inside as a prank. I am pretty sure it was the other guy’s idea.
Over the years, many people interpreted my son’s quiet demeanor as shyness, but that misses the point. One of his elementary school friends hit it just about right when he observed that Evan is perfectly happy to talk with anybody, but it has to be about something that interests him.
Ever since he was small, he has been a steady champion of anybody who is different, excluded, or bullied. Cruelty and unfairness outrage him and, although he is both handsome and popular, he has refused to participate in the hazing and meanness that so often define social status among children.
Evan is graduating from high school this weekend and headed off to college. These past few weeks have been a haze of first and lasts for the whole family – his last day of high school was Thursday, bringing back, for his parents at least, memories of his first days that don’t seem so long ago. He got his driver’s license on Tuesday (he waited two years after he was eligible because, well, he didn’t want to be rushed into anything).
I am immensely proud of him and excited for what he is discovering and experiencing, but I am having a little bit of a hard time integrating the young man I see before me with the memory of that small, serious toddler who dispassionately remarked upon how much he was enjoying the merry-go-round. Or with that tiny purple creature howling with outrage at being forced into the world before he was good and ready to come out.
Mostly, I am just coming to terms with the fact that he’s an adult now. After 18 years of being the authority figure and being in charge, I can’t boss him around any more. I don’t even need to. He’s all grown up and can do his own thing.
I am perfectly sure he’s ready for it.