My Son Is One of the Best Writers I Know and Why that Matters to You

November 20, 2009

It is not my intention to make more than the occasional mention of my family here. I am a reporter from the lands of Me, Myself, and I, and any foibles I share are likely to be my own or those of anonymous culprits whose identity is carefully disguised. But although my family’s reportage is their business, I’m saying this to illustrate an important point: My son is one of the best writers I know.

I have two sons. One of them is a caring father and husband, a terrific teacher, a talented athlete and coach, and is also good at math, the subject he teaches. The other one is not: not a husband nor a father nor a teacher nor an athlete nor a coach nor particularly good at math except for the applied kind that‘s useful in the everyday world of life and work. No. My other son is one of the best writers I know and I’ve read lots of writing. I’m delighted by Dickensian sesquepedalian sentences. I love Nathanael West, especially Miss Lonelyhearts (1933); and I am a fan of just about everything Flannery O’Connor ever wrote—Wise Blood (1952) is my favorite; but for make-me-laugh-wish-I’d-written-that stuff, it’s my son I can depend on. He has a way with words that resonates with me. He’s also a talented actor and an all-around creative person.

Both of my sons are snappy dressers when they want to be and both of them can decorate a room with flair. I like to think that these things are part of their genetic heritage. Here’s the secret about all of this that matters to you: I love my sons equally despite how different they are. I love them for the things they do well and I don’t expect them to be like me or like each other or like any of their other relatives. I expect them to be themselves. That isn’t easy for anyone.

Regardless of their age, many students I talk with feel the pressures of familial hopes. It may be parental expectations about career choice or the expectations of spouses or partners or chldren or friends who just wonder when this school thing is going to be over and the money—you will be making money, won’t you?—will come rolling in. Sometimes those pressures are real. Just watch Toddlers and Tiaras on television for a glimpse into parental dreams being imposed on the young and vulnerable. Sometimes, though, the expectations are self-imposed by a student whose family may simply hope that the student finds her or his way into a satisfying life. It can also be difficult to sort out what you really want for your own life when you’ve inherited talents from your family and you want to make your own path and not follow in someone else’s footsteps.

For every one of us, there comes a time when we need to recognize our limitations and revel in our gifts, to become who we choose to be, to accept that we are like and unlike our relatives, and to be okay with all of it.

Are you there yet?

If we did the things we are capable of, we would astound ourselves.
• Thomas Alva Edison


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