Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him. Children born to a young man are like sharp arrows in a warrior’s hands. How happy is the man whose quiver is full of them! He will not be put to shame when he confronts his accusers at the city gates. (Psalm 127:3-5, New Living Translation)
Today is my son Royce’s 18th birthday. He now has the legal right to vote, marry without parental permission, join the military, become an organ donor, work full time, play the lottery, get a tattoo, purchase tobacco, file a lawsuit, apply for a credit card, create a will, and adopt a child. Decisions, decisions. Of course, right now his main goal is to finish high school. He might be 18 but he still needs to line up a date for the prom.
As I watched Royce blow out his candles today, I thought back to the first time I ever saw him. I was standing in the delivery room of Asheville’s Memorial Mission hospital, camcorder in hand (we used those things back then), watching Tonya deliver him. We’ve still got the video footage somewhere. A little later, after the nurses had cleaned him off and wrapped him in a blanket, I got my first good look at him. I remember thinking to myself, “I just doubled my responsibility as a father.” Ryan, our firstborn, had been born three-and-a-half years earlier.
As I learned over the next few months, much of the fatherly experience I had gained by raising Ryan was of little or no use to me in regards to raising Royce. Both were males, and both seemed to have my nose, but that’s pretty much where the similarities ended. Neither one is “better” than the other. They’re just different. Very different. And all those differences have brought me and Tonya not one, but two, crash courses in parenting.
As for the current status quo, I’m happy to report that both boys are coming along nicely in life. It hasn’t always been easy, and mistakes have surely been made by not only them but their parents, but all in all Tonya and I couldn’t ask for finer young men. To use the imagery of Psalm 127:4, they are straight, sharp arrows. Hopefully (and prayerfully), they will stay that way.
But today Royce isn’t worrying about his future. Priority #1 for the day is getting the new video game he got for his birthday uploaded onto his PlayStation IV. Isn’t that just like an 18-year-old? They are mature enough to do all the things I listed in the first paragraph but still childish enough to want to sit and play a video game all day. Actually, though, that’s fine with me. I want Royce to savor being a kid as long as he can. After all, as all of us “adults” know far too well, once those days are gone, they are gone forever. And at 18 you’ve got a lot more of them behind you than ahead of you.