My "baby" became an official teenager this week. He's also as tall as me now and his feet are much bigger than mine. When he dons his football pads I hardly recognize him. So he is hardly a baby any more. The team of teachers he is with at school this year asked parents to write "A Million Words or Less" about their children. Now you all know me well enough to be fearing for the sanity of the teachers because of what I could do to such an assignment. First off, I want to get pedantic and tell them it would technically be a million words or "fewer" since "fewer" denotes numbers of items and "less" denotes degrees of a quality. Next, I am tempted to produce a 999,999 word opus. Recognizing this would not endear Isaac or me to the teachers and wanting him to have a much better year than last year I opted to submit the following piece, which will also function as this week's count. Thirteen years old...where has the time gone?
Once upon a time there was a little boy named Isaac who had two older sisters. The sisters dressed him in girl clothes, invited him to play Barbies, and barely let him get a word in edgewise. They loved their brother and he loved them but he eventually got tired of them thinking he was a younger sister. He grew out of the Barbie stage pretty quickly and hipped his sisters to the joys of Legos, cars, and dinosaurs...well, he tried to anyway. The girls got in on the Lego action, but not so much on the cars and dinos. Isaac also exerted his masculine self by emulating a preschool version of a cross between Tarzan and WWF personalities. Sisters, parents, and visitors alike quickly learned how bad an idea it was to sit on the floor since the young Isaac regarded this as an invitation to tackle them.
As Isaac grew he developed a real fondness for critters of the 6 and 8 legged varieties and his mother had to learn how to groove on bugs with genuine enthusiasm. She introduced him to the wonders of amphibians and legless reptiles though. Together they found a mutual thrill in photographically documenting his backyard renditions of The Croc Hunter whenever he discovered a new bug, frog, or snake. When he needed more excitement or the weather was uncooperative (though he and I have somewhat different notions of what constitutes bad weather) he amused himself by feigning deity and creating whole new species of animals before documenting their habits and habitats with scientifically accurate descriptors. When zoological exploration was not fruitful Isaac was often found fending off hordes of imaginary barbarian invaders with nothing but a toy golf club or a rubber alligator. Constructing Bionicles, writing stories, drawing maps and cartoons, and designing football uniforms were other activities he’d settle for in lieu of swinging from the drapes. When he was finally old enough to take the hunter safety course and obtain his license last year he was thrilled to be able to do some real hunting. These days he most enjoys playing baseball and football, playing Wii, drawing cartoons, reading, and generating lists of favorite words based on how they feel to say and how they sound. Recently he found out he’s good at hanging drywall when he and his dad began a demolition project in the den.
When the adolescent estrogen level in the house becomes toxic, Isaac finds sports and hard physical play a good antidote. He is a gentleman though and is happy to play with his sisters when they are interested. His best friend’s family says he is very tender toward, as well as patient and helpful with, the younger children. When I was injured badly a couple years ago and had a long, hard recovery he was the family member who was most sensitive to my pain and frustration.
Sometimes as the youngest in the family he has unreasonable expectations of himself by thinking he should be able to do everything as well as people who are older and who have had much more practice or experience. When he doesn’t reach his own goals in his own time frame or when others jump on his case and try to make him feel small, he can become highly self-critical or pretend he doesn’t care anymore. Now that his various glands are dumping gallons of hormones into his system he can react angrily too. There’s nothing like a few whacks at the Bat Away, pogoing around on the trampoline, or shooting hoops to help restore calm. Following the calm with a tickle fight, some Far Side type humor, or a few horrendous puns reintroduces levity, at which point Isaac’s reasoning ability reappears so he can look at things more clearly. Fortunately, he can hold off on the whacking and pogoing until he gets home so there won’t be a need to install a trampoline or a Bat Away in the classroom but he certainly isn’t averse to recess or lunch as a pressure valve.
After surviving his own personal Annus Horribilus for 6th grade and having a summer to recover and be encouraged by his older sister’s fond memories of the Pioneer Team, it is with guarded optimism that he greets 7th grade. The rest of his family looks forward with great anticipation to living with a happier and more relaxed Isaac. Trampolines and Bat Aways are expensive to keep replacing. Here’s to a great year!