To my son on his birthday…

“…dear son of mine, the baby days are over,
I can no longer shield you from the earth…”

It was on this day, eight years ago, when my eldest son Israel was born in an Oklahoma City hospital. The second child of our family, he has come a long way over this past year.

Physiologically, he continues much in the mold of his elder sister in that he is growing long-limbed and slender. Israel is also among the taller boys of his class.

Israel’s coordination, flexibility, and natural sense of balance will be tested in the fall and he will begin Greco-Roman wrestling in October. But, for now, he’s in the midst of baseball Spring Training, though I know he finds the game to be largely tedious. It is a sentiment shared by his father.

When he applies himself to an activity or sport, it comes easily and almost effortlessly to him. However, he seems indifferent to most athletic pursuits, participating in them only at the instigation of others. But, on the whole, Israel would much rather consume himself in building robots or large Lego-based dioramas.

Intellectually, he remains well ahead of the curve. Unfortunately this too often encourages him to be lazy.

When studying a subject or issue that captures his attention, Israel can direct the whole of his focus with a white-hot intensity that borders on obsession. But if it something he’s not interested in, he gives only enough effort to just meet the most basic criteria.

Curiosity is probably the main source of his academic gifts. The depths of Israel’s curiosity seem to know no bounds. The boy asks countless questions about a vast diversity of topics over the course of a day.

Sometimes, as I’m tucking him into bed, he’ll pepper me with queries about the moon’s effect on the tides or hypotheticals about time travel.

One night it took me nearly thirty minutes to get him to go to bed because he kept asking me theological questions. I decided I would keep answering his questions until he was satisfied…  but it never happened.

Eventually, I “tapped out” laughing, good-naturedly scolded him, before switching off his bedside lamp and telling him to go to sleep.

Personality-wise, Israel exhibits a consistently affectionate and sensitive character toward others. But the latent male urges to dominate and show aggression occasionally show themselves in rare terrible flashes.

Not long ago he had to be physically restrained from attacking an older boy that had attempted to bully one of his friends in the school cafeteria. Even as I credited him for his courage in the face of immorality, I rebuked his solution to the problem as unethical.

But this temper also manifests itself in far less redemptive situations.

Israel, though outwardly fond of his friends and relatives, has a natural tendency toward keeping to himself. As such, when disturbed he can become rather defensive of his privacy. Even to his baby brother, who thinks he hung the moon.

While this has not yet caused any major fallout around the house, it is something I will be watching very close, especially as Israel creeps increasingly closer to adolescence.

All his positive and negative attributes aside, Israel is a delight to have as a son. I could never have asked for a more complex, interesting, and loving boy.

I have great expectations for the young man he will become, I only pray that the Lord will help me to be the man he needs as a father. That I will have the courage to be strong when he needs to face resistance and that I will have the grace to show compassion.

May you have another blessed year, my son, I wish you many happy returns of the day. I remain…

…your devoted father,


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