Photo: Sukanto Debnath, Flickr Creative CommonsI've never been able to really claim my son as my own. Sure, the kid is a fountain of trivia already when he's not even three. He also shares his father's tendency to correct people when they are wrong. I can't say if he shares my motivation for the character flaw, though. I honestly don't want to make people look bad. It's just that truth seems to be innately desirable to me and I have to be very careful to not always set the record straight. I'm not trying to slam you, I'm just trying to correct an imbalance in the universe, no matter how small and trivial it may be.
Beyond that, he's never shown any sign of my DNA. He was born with a cap of red hair, something that doesn't even exist in my family. When the red fell out in infancy, it was replaced by a mass of blonde curls. Oh, and he has bright blue eyes. My wife is largely of Greek descent and my complexion is still influenced by my not-so-distant Cherokee ancestors. Actually, they could have been Creek or some other group originally native to the region, but the branch of the family that introduced their more melanistic blood into my line came from the heartland of the pre-Trail of Tears Cherokee. I stand outside all day at tennis tournament and I don't burn. My son has a face that even the Aryan Brotherhood would approve of.
Sure, he likes to lie in bed and read books in the evening, but he's also wild, barely contained. I've gone jogging with him and he'll cover nearly a mile before he tires. He's viciously competitive. He'll gleefully cut me off when we race around the fireplace at home and he practices the bump and rub when we race outside. Competition is a great motivator for him, and it's something we use to great effect when we need him to do something when he's not in the mood to cooperate. When he wins, he'll loudly crow, "I beat you! You too slow! HA ha!" Competition was never a big motivator for me. I've always been happy to cruise through life. I like to win, but when I don't I can be happy as long as I meet my personal standards. Understanding why something should be done was always a much bigger motivator for me than just winning.
Of course, I'm not above using this competitive spirit and physical energy to my advantage. In a couple of years when my son turns 5, he's going to start tennis lessons. He already has his own racquet and being the son of a coach and regular recreational player, he's used to and interested in the sport already. As long as he shows the desire, I plan on pushing him just enough to keep him motivated without losing his love for the game. When he turns 18, he'll go pro, and I'll retire to be his manager.
The only flaw with this plan is that pro tennis parents tend to be horrible people who push their children and ruin their relationships with their kids. I'm not that guy. I'm too easily distracted. I care too much about how other people feel, and the truth of the matter is that the deck is stacked in favor of assholes. That's not just in tennis. That's in life. Nice people can easily rise to the middle, but that's as far as we get. You've got to be willing to stab a few backs and stomp on a few of the weak to make it to the top in anything. Honestly, I'll probably do more to crush that primal ape inside my son than I ever would to make it rage even more strongly. It's just a matter of discouraging him when he dropkicks a younger kid to get a toy he desires and encouraging him when he goes out of his way to be brave for a fearful 1-year-old walking down the aisle at my sister's wedding.