Innocent today

We returned to our familiar foothills in midsummer. Evan dashed off to the English-speaking shopkeepers with their forty-seven flavors of sugar water. Then he bicycled away among the pines beside the friends he’d missed for a year. He reaffirmed to me, whenever something reminded him, “there really is a lot more to do here.”

My boys are brilliant students; exceptional across all categories. They’re beautiful to look at. They’re creative, personable, gregarious, and healthy. I’m an uncomfortable parent, but I watch Evan going about his life, and join mine to those testimonials from fathers who lived to see themselves outdone in their sons. Evan is beyond me. Now I know what ‘fierce pride’ means.

He’s not a little boy anymore. He still asks for ice cream after dinner, but he knows what orgasms, bigotry, and crack cocaine are. He knows some adults keep their kids from listening to gangsta rap, while cheering on men who burst through twelve-year-olds’ houses in Afghanistan, splattering parents all over the walls. He heard his English teacher is Conservative, and worried he’d be graded down because he hasn’t accepted Jesus Christ as his personal savior. He knows his country is divided into two big Parties which hate each other for no good reason.

This is where Evan will discover right and wrong. He’s starting to try out opinions, forcefully asserting himself on one position or another. His father tells him to wait as long as possible. His father tells him to enjoy this time. It will pass, and he should cherish it. His father tells him smoking marijuana will change his work and his relationships. His father tells him girls will change his entire life. But today, Evan bounces down the mountain trails with his pack of boys, yelling and swearing and straining at the leash. He hasn’t yet touched the fire.

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