What about second sons?
When they figure out their older brother has secured the patent on proper, compliant behavior (or, shall we say, the appearance of proper, compliant behavior), they know—by instinct it seems—that to gain a purchase in the attention-grabbing game they will have to be creative. There is a gleam/spark in a second son’s eye, a certain kind of jaunty grin on a second son’s face. I saw that grin on Prince Harry’s face during the Royal wedding. Yeah! That grin! I think the jockeying for position gives second sons dexterity, elasticity, jocularity.
You, Carson, my beloved son, are a second son.
I wish now that I had been given a manual tucked into the swaddling clothes when they laid you in my arms. “This one is different. You need to be different with this one.” That I didn’t adapt my parenting, that I didn’t change is my regret. And, shame, I can’t get a do-over, can I?
You come from some solid second-son stock. Grandpa, whom you resemble, is a second son. Your Uncle Scott, part of the SS Society, was always rooting for you, sort of a co-belligerent against your dad. He would boom, “I understand that boy!”
And now your nephew. The one whose mom called you up and asked, “How did I get your son?” Oh my, how we delight in that kiddo. It is pure fun to recognize his personality as it emerges. We know Preston; we can predict what he will do, the looks he will give, the shrugs, the determination, the focus. Because he is you. And—glory!—you now have your own little Levi, that boy who knows what he wants and can’t sit still.
You probably don’t know that your other grandpa, my dad, was also a second son. I hear he gave his mom a run for her money. Especially since his dad was gone all the time. Here’s one story: he spouted off in the car and his mom responded, “Johnny, we are going to stop for ice cream cones, but you will not be having any.” As they continued driving, they almost passed the Red Robin. Little Johnny piped up, “Oh Mother! Do make sure you stop for ice cream for everyone else!”
God surely likes second sons. That would be an interesting study, wouldn’t it? Isaac, Jacob, Ephraim, Solomon.
It is a mercy that our troubles are behind us. That I can look at our differences with wonder and delight. That you can see our similarities…and smile. That we love each other and love to hang out with each other. That your dad enjoys you immensely. We like to talk about you, you know.
Oh my son, you are truly blessed.
What I see in you are the same characteristics you had as a lad. Back then, your stubbornness was frustrating; now it looks more like persistence. Back when I disciplined the Stoic you, nothing made you flinch. Or blink. But a few weeks ago, you allowed yourself one yelp when you hurt your hand, and then determined to not make another peep about the pain.
You notice details.
You like systems.
You don’t complain.
You are generous.
You take risks.
You are fun to be with.
You take charge of your sons.
You bring flowers to your wife.
And life is so full of surprises. You—the kid whom I had to force to read a book—regularly read to your son.
Happy Birthday, Carson. I love you more than all the books in the world.