Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Realization About "Predilection" Gets My Dad Off The Hook

“Predilection” is defined by Encarta as “a special liking or preference for something.”  When I was a child, my father took a lot of heat for appearing to “prefer” my brother.  I can remember overhearing my Oma chiding her son in her accented English, “Hanno, you must be careful to treat your two sons viss ze same level of care and attention.”
Hearing my grandmother say these words set my thinking on a path that really never diverted until this morning.  I didn’t want to buy in to her image of me as the neglected weakling who wasn’t asked to join in the games of catch, the frames of bowling or the sets of tennis, so I played it off, outwardly anyway. 
The dynamic is yet another one that I see playing itself out with my own boys and myself.  (DNA continues to amaze me on a daily basis.)  My younger son is already showing signs of being a gifted athlete at age 6; like his Uncle Mike he has outstanding coordination and balance.  Like me, he has speed and strength.  Diego is quite athletic too, though he is built differently than his brother.  (I often think of the number 10 when I see them standing side by side, and their Aunt Sylvia has referred to them as Laurel and Hardy.)
What brought me to this understanding about predilections this morning was a simple exchange with Diego.  We were both up early, and I was considering whether or not it would be a good idea to leave him alone while I took my morning bike ride.  Jeanette and Jackson were asleep in my bed, and I was probably more concerned about him waking them up than anything else.  Then it came to me:  There was no reason not to ask him to join me on my ride. 
Diego was playing one of his Wii games by that point, and I interrupted him, asking, “Hey Diego, how would you like to go on a bike ride with me?”
In a very pleasant voice, with no shade of any anger or ill feeling of any kind, he answered, simply, “No thank you, Daddy,” and returned to trying to help Pac Man defeat a giant teddy bear robot.  
I immediately imagined what Jackson’s reaction would have been to the same question.  “Yay! Can I ride the big bike? Do I have to wear a helmet? Will you buy me a donut when we get to the store?” 
It’s the same question, asked to two different young people – two people who have different predilections.  Jackson, like my younger brother, is drawn to action (“Action Jackson,” yes), sports, motion and the like.  Diego is not a complete bookworm; he too is drawn by cool action, but his predilection is to stay inside and play video games, watch a good movie, or read. 
I guess the important thing is to make sure I take the interest in both boys and their activities, no matter how different they may be.  I think that may have been the part that Oma misunderstood about my father.  Yes, he did spend a great deal of time on the tennis court with my brother, and catching his curve ball in the back yard.  But he also never missed the chance to read something new that I wrote, and his criticism was always kind and constructive.  In the end, I think he even became a fan, if I can be so bold. 
So Oma, thanks.  I appreciate you looking out for me the way you did, but I was happy in pursuing my own predilections that had nothing to do with what Hanno and Mike were doing back then.  And Dad, don’t worry.  You’re off the hook. 

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