Smooth Like Butter, My Son Alex

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I’m used to giving all of my children nicknames.  Alex’s nickname was Butter.  Why?  Because he reminded me of a tub of butter.  He was thick, strong and hard.  His weight seemed dense.  So he was not just Butter like the butter you buy today, he was like the government issued butter.

Right from the start I knew Alex was going to be different and have his own way of doing things.  For one, if I recall it took him almost two years before he would speak a word.  He often pointed, made gestures or maybe grunted to you if he wanted something.  No matter what anyone tried, he wasn’t going to talk till he got ready to.

Though he had a slightly older brother, Alex never craved having anyone to play with.  That’s because even from the beginning he was very satisfied with himself.  His imagination has always been vibrant and active.   This was cool on one hand because Alex didn’t need a lot of management.  On the other hand it presented a problem when it came time to go to school. 

Alex’s didn’t need any friends.  So going to school was strictly business.  And when it came to socially working with other boys and girls, that didn’t work out too well initially.  Let’s just say my son was an ummmm bully!  So it was common for me to get a phone call telling me that he hit somebody’s child. 

Teachers didn’t have it so good either.  They had to really be on their games and think outside the box to get through to him.  Alex resented whenever a teacher treated and reacted towards him like they did all the other students.  It’s not that he thought he was better than anyone else.  Its just that his brain worked differently.  He perceived the world from a different perspective and cookie cutter approaches didn’t work.

I remember one teacher was having such a hard time that I considered taking him out of her class.  “Noooo, ” she exclaimed.  “I want to work with Alex.  I just don’t know what to do.”  That was the breakthrough he needed.

You see, Alex was the type of kid that needed to connect with you as an authority figure.  Once he did, there was nothing he wouldn’t do for his teacher.  This same teacher just adored Alex by the time the school year ended.  This was a process that was repeated for a couple years. 

Alex gets a new teacher.  Teacher uses cookie cutter approach.  Alex rebels, teacher resents Alex.  Teacher learns to give a little and understand the specific needs of Alex, and most importantly does not write Alex off as ADD or any other stereotypical diagnosis teachers use when they lack the skill to improvise.  Alex excels and becomes one of teacher’s favorite students.  That’s just how it was.

Alex has always been that cat that you just can’t tell him anything.  If it doesn’t make sense, he questions it.  Period!  I don’t care who you are!  He has a sense of justice that must be satisfied in his brain.  Again, a great strength that I appreciate and also have had to work hard with him on when it came to understanding that things will not always be explained to him.  Sometimes he has to simply obey because his understanding wouldn’t be fruitful regardless of his knowledge base.

I am so proud of Alex because he has really grown up a lot over the last few years.  I contribute this growth to a few things as I think about them.  He took Tai-Kwan-Do when he moved to Atlanta.  Learning this discipline was great for him.  He is also a very devout Christian and has been blessed to find a church that he is extremely comfortable with.  I think he is spiritual leader in his house.  He has the ability to see the good and hope in even the most dreadful circumstances.  His faith is a huge key to that.

I am happy to say that now he is still just as imaginative and still thinks out of the box, but he is savvy enough to know when he is dealing with mere mortals who don’t.  He makes mostly A’s in school and have adjusted well to navigating through dealing with new people and authority figures. 

In addition to being excited about his church, (which he says he attends 3-4 days a week) his love and gifts are writing his comics.  This started with the stick figures he would draw as a young child.  Under the figures he would write a line or two.  This blew up into what are now full scale stories and plots.  When I would take he and his little sister to the ‘dollar store’ to get toys, Alex would always get a notbook so he could draw and write more comics.

I remember when Alex wrote a paper at school on how to write a comic.  He described eloquently how to develop the characters, having a good guy, an antagonist, a conflict and so forth.  This young man is a genius!

Alex is no longer built like Butter.  He’s tall and slender, handsome and humorous.  He still finds comfort in being alone which is good.  But he’s very comfortable meeting people and making friends.  So that balance is evident.

Alex likes to call me his main man.  That’s a thing between he, I, and his brother Christian.  It talks of our kinship of father and son, and buddies and Butter.  He and his big brother are real partners and great friends.  I love the man he is becoming.

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Behold! The Only Thing Greater Than Yourself!

 

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Christian is my first born son.  I gave him the nickname Chumley.  That originated from the cartoon series Tennessee Tuxedo. Tennessee Tuxedo is a penguin and Chumley is a walrus who he affectionately calls his ‘little buddy.’  In each of the episodes Tennessee would get them into adventures exploring things inside the zoo where they lived, and Chumley would follow along blissfully.  That was me and Christian.  He was my little buddy. 

I remember when we took him to church for dedication.  My boy Evan “aka Copasetic Soul” was there because he asked to stand with me when Christian was prayed over.  Evan told me, “Man, when the pastor is finished, you have to hold your son to the sky like John Amos did Kunta Kinte on Roots and say, “Behold!  The only thing greater than yourself.”   Think I didn’t?  I sure did!  Evan just lost it caught up in that powerful moment.  I still get choked up thinking about it.  It was serious!

Christian has always been a mild mannered cat.  If you don’t know him, one would think he was kinda quiet and shy.  But when he gets comfortable enough around you he is a barrel of laughs joking up something terrible.  It took a while for me to figure this out because he would always be so quiet around me.  Now he knows he can be himself around his dad and our overall communication is outstanding.

What I really appreciate about Christian is that he is a very observant and sensitive young man.  He is a student of life like his dad.  Rarely does anything slip past him, even if he doesn’t say anything at the time.  Of all of my children, he has always been in tuned with me emotionally.  At the age of 15 he would ask me how I’m doing.  After giving him some generic response he would stop me and say, “No daddy.  I mean it.  How are you doing?  How are you feeling?”

Christian knows when something is on my mind or if I am going through something difficult.  I could see his level of maturity and for the last couple years I have been sharing what I call manhood conversations with him.  Christian allowed me to feel vulnerable around him and he lets me share even my pains and weaknesses with him.  At first I wasn’t sure if he could handle them.  But he always has and has never looked at me as less than his hero regardless of what I tell him.  Because we are so in tuned with one another, I help him by articulating his feelings by language what he could only identify though feeling before.  Its not unusual to hear him say, “I’ve always thought that, but never knew how to say it.” 

Some of my favorite moments with Christian were when we’d play basketball.  Not one on one, but when he would play on my team when my friends and I would get together.  I know he wanted to be down with me and my close circle of teammates.  We had played together in tournaments for years and the other guys watched him grow up.  So to see him come from being a little kid on the sidelines and playing with the other little kids to balling with the big boys, the men, I knew it meant a lot to him and it really meant a lot to me.  I would try to dominate at every phase of the game so he could see the fruits of hard work, even on the basketball court.  And it seemed like I always played well whenever he was around.  He wanted to impress me.  But I wanted to impress upon him that his dad was a true sportsman.  My theory was always, If I can beat them in what they like to do up at least up until a certain age they will always listen to me when it comes to other things in life.  I find this to be especially true with boys.

Christian is a very responsible young man.  He lives with his mom and little brother in Atlanta and is the man of his house even as I write this.  His maturity and thoughtfulness is shaping him up to be an outstanding young man.

Right now he’s really into the guitar and from the links he’s sent me he’s got some real game.  Nothing he accomplishes musically or otherwise would surprise me.  Christian has IT!  He’s got flavor, talent and charisma. 

The thing I know about Christian, is that we will always be close.  Sometimes we relate not merely as father and son, but like we are boys.  I am comfortable with that because he never tries to take advantage of it.  He knows I don’t play and that I am old school.  Equally true however, is that Christian has a lot to offer me.  And quite frankly there are times when I don’t mind asking the 17 year old what his opinion is of a thing.  Most of the time his thoughts are right on point!

 

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* Christian (bending) with his friend JaLil