Tuesday, November 25, 2014

If John-Heath Had Been the Son of a President

I was reading an interesting internet article one day about President Abraham Lincoln and his family and came across a section on his youngest son Thomas - affectionately called "Tad" because Mr. Lincoln had thought he looked like a tadpole when he was a baby.

It seems, despite the distance and passage of time, I have something in common with one of our country's greatest presidents - a spirited son.  Except for a few differences, our sons could have been kindred souls.  And based on some of what I read, I'm thinking John-Heath is near angelic. 

Below are excerpts taken from the site Mr. Lincoln's White House.

"Quick in mind, and impulse, with a naturally sunny temperament, he was the life, as also the worry of the household."

"Tad was less beloved by the President's secretaries and by cabinet members, who viewed his interruptions with disdain. Historian Benjamin P. Thomas wrote: "Tad ate all the strawberries intended for a state dinner; the steward raged and tore his hair, but his mother merely asked him why he did it."

"He was so full of life and vigor — so bubbling over with health and high spirits, that he kept the house alive with his pranks and his fantastic enterprises. He was always a 'chartered libertine,' and after the death of his brother Willie, a prematurely serous and studious child, and the departure of Robert for college, he installed himself as the absolute tyrant of the Executive Mansion. He was idolized by both his father and mother, petted and indulged by his teachers, and fawned upon and caressed by that noisome horde of office-seekers which infested the ante-rooms of the White House. He had a very bad opinion of books and no opinion of discipline, and thought very little of any tutor who would not assist him in yoking his kids (goats) to a chair or in driving his dogs tandem over the South Lawn. He was as shrewd as he was lawless, and always knew whether he could make a tutor serviceable or not. If he found one with obstinate ideas of the superiority of grammar to kite-flying as an intellectual employment, he soon found means of getting rid of him. He had so much to do that he felt he could not waste time in learning to spell. Early in the morning you could hear his shrill pipe resounding through the dreary corridors of the Executive residence. The day passed in a rapid succession of plots and commotions, and when the President laid down his weary pen toward midnight, he generally found his infant goblin asleep under his table or roasting his curly head by the open fire-place; and the tall chief would pick up the child and trudge off to bed with the drowsy little burden on his shoulder, stooping under the doors and dodging the chandeliers. The President took infinite comfort in the child's rude health, fresh fun, and uncontrollable boisterousness. He was pleased to see him growing up in ignorance of books, but with singularly accurate ideas of practical matters. He was a fearless rider, while yet so small that his legs stuck out horizontally from the saddle. He had that power of taming and attaching animals to himself, which seems the especial gift of kindly and unlettered natures. 'Let him run,' the easy-going President would say; 'he has time enough left to learn his letters and get pokey. Bob was just such a little rascal, and now he is a very decent boy.'"

Tad's instincts often mirrored his father's in their compassion. Ward Hill Lamon recalled on occasion in which Tad took up the cause of some Kentuckians who had been waiting for several hours to see the President. He went to Mr. Lincoln's office and requested that he be allowed to introduce some friends to the President. Mr. Lincoln agreed and Tad took them into to see the President. Tad introduced the leader and then asked him to introduce the others. According to Lamon, "The introductions were gone through with, and they turned out to be gentlemen Mr. Lincoln had been avoiding for a week. Mr. Lincoln reached for the boy, took him on his lap, kissed him, and told him it was all right, and that he had introduced his friend like a little gentleman as he was." Tad later explained that he called the men his "friends" because "they looked so good and sorry, and said they were from Kentucky, that I thought they must be our friends." His father replied: "That is right, my son. I would have the whole human race your friends and mine, if it were possible."

As Thanksgiving approaches, John and I are so very thankful for our two children.  Having one of each - a girl and a boy - has given us the best of both worlds, especially as they are quite different in personalities.  The older she becomes, I am finding a best friend in my daughter, and not a day goes by that I don't thank God for the individual she is becoming. 

As for our little "accident", John-Heath fills the house with the kind of joy and happiness, kindness and tenderness that only a little boy brings - including his own special talent for messing and gauming and noisy mischief.

Remembering back to a picture I once saw of a woman in the Philippines grieving over the body of her own little boy who had been killed in a tsunami, I am thankful for such naughtiness.

And while on frequent occasions we do, out of necessity or situation, find ourselves reigning in our nine-year-old ball of energy, I prefer to just say, "Let him run."