I used to think parenting was easy. I used to think I'd have five or maybe even six kids. I used to think I rocked at this whole parenting thing - that it was satisfyingly easy, even. And then God sent me Oliver. It's not that I don't love him as much as I love the others, or even that I like him less. It's not that at all. It's that with him, I'm forever finding myself having to teach things I never imagined I'd have to teach a child.
Like, for example, it's not OK to belly-buck your friend on the school field. Sometimes - I'm beginning to find - belly-bucking, because it hurts more than one might expect, can escalate to a full on wrestle match on the ground with your friend during recess. You may have intended to begin and end with happy, laughing belly-bucking, only to find yourself sweaty and dirty and being pulled along to visit the principal by a concerned teachers' assistant. Theoretically speaking, of course. If you are one of the lucky ones and you have a principal who understands your heart and the fact that you are a physical little boy who needs a physical outlet and who believes in you, you may well be OK. But not all principals have the requisite time or energy to get to know your beautiful heart and so, one might think, you'd be wise to learn early on to be less physical in your play. Are you reading between the cryptic lines yet?
With Oliver, we have to explain why it's important to be mannerly and patient. The other joykids understood these things instinctively when they were his age. Their own internal policeman informed them all on his own. With Oliver, we have to painstakingly walk him through why you shouldn't impatiently tell your friends off when you feel the first stab of irritation with them. He doesn't suffer fools gladly. Where Oliver is concerned, I don't wonder at his long-term success in life. I know he'll be a world-changer. I admire him and his indomitable spirit. He loves God and his family with a cement-like fortitude. No one can push him around on the inside. Oliver is an incredible person who insists upon doing things well or not at all. He's diligent, careful and he prides himself on his competence. He's smart in a way that has you always writing emails about his aforementioned intelligence to your mother, because you can't believe it sometimes and everyone needs a grandma to brag to with impunity.
But the journey between Oliver's adult self and the little six-year-old we see before us today is fraught with hills to be climbed and valleys to be carefully descended. But I have noticed that when you get to the top of one of the more daunting hills - one of the ones you where you wondered if you'd ever reach the summit - you notice that the air is clear and bracingly beautiful. You wonder if maybe you can't see to the ends of the Earth. There is real clarity there and because it's been hard-earned, it fills the lungs.
I adore my Oliver and I respect him so much. I've never liked anyone more. Shepherding his young heart isn't easy. But maybe the things in life really worth having are the things that require that you invest all of yourself. Who needs five kids, anyway?