I once asked my son if I could call him Wilner the younger. He asked why and I said because Pliny the Elder was taken.
That conversation took place almost a dozen or so years ago, during a night when my infant daughter and wife took turns crying.
One had a slipped disk and the other was colicky.
While I can’t say I remember everything that led to that conversation I can assure you that some of it happened because it was one of those moments where dear old dad knew he was stuck between a rock and a hard place.
I couldn’t fix the slipped disk and since I couldn’t breast feed and there was no reserve from the pump for me to feed my daughter I didn’t have many resources to draw upon to try and calm the girls down.
Three Year-old Kids Are Tyrants
Somewhere in the midst of it all the young master decided he was angry with his baby sister for crying and unhappy that his mother wouldn’t make her stop.
I remember sitting him down and asking for his help but three year-old kids can be intolerant tyrants and he wasn’t having any of my suggestions.
It didn’t take long for my suggestion to be revised into something more strongly worded and a promise that if his behavior didn’t change there would be consequences he didn’t like.
Can’t tell you precisely when I asked if he wanted to be Wilner the Younger but I do know when he told me he was a big boy I explained that younger could mean that he wasn’t a baby and that distracted him long enough to get him involved in something other than complaining about his baby sister.
It provided him with an opportunity to tell me how he wanted more Thomas the Tank Engine toys and a chance for me to tell him that he had plenty and he ought to save money for experiences too.
“Daddy, if you can’t buy me more Thomas it is ok, I have grandparents.”
That might not be exactly what he said, but it is close enough. Don’t ask me to recount what I said or didn’t say because there are some memories that haven’t stood the test of time.
Things To Remember: Experiences Trumps ‘Things’
And now all these years later on the verge of his 15th birthday the boy who wasn’t sure that Wilner the Younger worked as a title has a much better understanding about what I was trying to say that night.
Some of that is because age and life experience has finally presented him with better tools and resources to draw upon.
He recognizes now the difference between wants and needs and understands the importance of focusing upon those.
I like to think some of it is because he is doing more than just listening to me, he is hearing what I say and recognizes that things can be taken from you but experiences can’t.
Have I mentioned how cool and yet very surreal it is to have deeper conversations with him?
There is something very nice about doing it and yet strange, because when we talk about the living the life he imagines it is something that I don’t play a central role in anymore.
That is a good thing, the right thing and very important but still very strange because for years the idea of kids going off to college was light years away.
And now…the light shining at the end of the tunnel is far brighter and it is close enough for me to almost sense its presence.
You Can Feel It, But Can’t Hold It
The funny thing about this light is that you can feel it, but you can’t hold it.
That is another thing he and I talked about years ago, whether we could catch light in our hands and hold onto it.
I remember the five year-old version of my boy trying to catch the light in his fist and between his palms.
I remember talking about whether it was possible and encouraging him to not only think about but try to do some of these things.
I remember doing a million different things with him, which is part of why I am so intent on creating more experiences for us to have in life.
Those are the moments that make up our memories. Those are the moments that make up a life.
Sometimes stuff can be cool and sometimes stuff can be nice, but it is the experiences we have that make it all interesting and worth living.