Obviously, there is no single gene “for” math aptitude or punctuality or interest in rainforests. But if Mom and Dad both exhibit a certain trait, shouldn’t the apple fall relatively close to the tree?
That’s what I used to think. Then I became a father.
Two of my defining interests throughout my life, evident from an early age, have been creative writing and competitive sports. My son Phil, now 10, is almost completely indifferent to both.
Here’s me at age 8 or 9, writing about baseball, my favorite sport at the time, while vacationing at my grandparents’ house in Old Lyme, Connecticut.
Marathon base ball poem
C’mon, c’mon, c’mon enjoy the fun,
c’mon, c’mon, c’mon and hit a home run.
C’mon, c’mon, c’mon and steal a base,
c’mon, c’mon, let me see that happy face.
C’mon, c’mon, c’mon and catch that ball,
c’mon, c’mon, c’mon and catch ’em all.
C’mon, c’mon, even if your average is low,
c’mon, work hard, and you can be a pro.
C’mon, c’mon, c’mon and hit that ball,
c’mon, c’mon, c’mon and hit it over the wall.
C’mon, c’mon, c’mon leap high in the air,
c’mon, c’mon, c’mon ‘n catch that ball, it’s fair.
C’mon, c’mon, throw the ball up high,
c’mon, c’mon, throw it way up in the sky.
C’mon, c’mon, throw it right into his glove,
C’mon, baseball, I’m in love!
C’mon, c’mon, c’mon enjoy the game,
c’mon, c’mon, c’mon and be elected to the Hall Of Fame.
While it’s not the work of a young Tennyson, some craftsmanship is evident, for example, in the commitment to the “c’mon, c’mon” cadence and the clean end rhymes. I proudly shared the poem with Grandma Nancy and relished her rave review.
In contrast, here is Phil writing about a summer camping trip that he basically enjoyed:
First we drove to the place. Then we ate lunch. Then we hiked. Then we set up camp. Then we ate dinner. Then we slept. Then we ate breakfast. Then we hiked. Then we drove to lunch. Then we drove home.
When asked to provide more detail about some part of the trip, Phil offered this:
After we set up the camp Leila set up the stove named the dragon fly. Then Leila made macaroni. And we ate it. Then she made a rice dish we ate it. finally we had roasted marshmallows for dessert.
Notice the apparent lack of interest in telling the story with any humor, any intrigue, or any flair whatsoever. Which is fine — LOTS of people find writing more tedious than enjoyable. And Phil is creative in other ways (especially with Legos). Still, I would have expected him to inherit some smidgen of my wordsmithing tendencies.
Likewise, we differ greatly in our attitude toward sports, as encapsulated in this photo from last Sunday’s PNTF cross-country meet (courtesy of Win Van Pelt):
Dad kicks fiercely toward the finish while Sonny Boy (in hat) looks away, uninterested.
Again, it’s fine that he is not (currently) a jock — just surprising to me.
Of course, we do have a few things in common: a love of soft blankets and sweat pants, for example. And similar views on Donald Trump.
That’s right — the man who has fractured the country into bitter factions has brought my son and me closer together.
Here’s Phil reacting to Donald Trump during the first presidential debate: “It seems like the only thing that he cares about is money.”
Weeks later, here he is, trying to explain Trump’s plan to make America great again: “It seems like Trump wants to repair America … by bombing it.” (I’m not sure exactly what Phil meant by that, but I took it to mean that “draining the swamp,” Trump-style, might do more harm than good.)
And here’s his response to a classmate’s claim that Trump will do some good things, like lowering taxes: “His tax cuts are for rich people. What about an African family working the entire day for 20 dollars?”
Preach on, Brother Phil!