One of my favorite movie series is the Up series. Produced by BBC and directed by Michael Apted, the Up series comprises documentary films that have followed the lives of fourteen British children since 1964, when they were seven years old. Every seven years a new documentary is filmed in which their lives are updated, and the evolution of each of the 14 is viewed. Not every person returns- some go years in-between installments. But 10 of them have been in every episode, through last year’s “56 Up” and it is an interesting character story to watch real people evolve in seven year increments.
The premise of the first episode, and the entire series, was the Jesuit maxim “Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man.” The belief is that fate is decided by what you are born into, but more importantly that what type of adult you will be can be observed by the personality by age seven. Much of one’s character, habits, and emotional make-up can be seen in the child at seven.
The series demonstrates this is a limited way; I am aware that some of this can be predetermined by how the documentary is shot and edited. My opinions and observations are manipulated by the director and editor- I know that. But in watching the movies I see an underlying ray of truth- you can see personality elements of the child in the participants as they age. Life leaves them wearied, weathered, and worse for wear, but the inherent traits are there. A flicker of the seven year old self continues to show up on screen.
My boy turns 7 today. I think of these films, especially the first of the series, and look at the youthful joy and naïveté in his face. His life is ahead- his loves and passions, work and worries- it’s all in front of him. But I wonder how much of who he is now is who he will be. He is a boy with a generous heart. When running a race, he stops to check on the person who falls. When given a handful of coins, he puts a few aside for charity and the rest in his bank. He is funny, and loves to be funny. He is smarter than his age and confident in what he knows. He is stubborn even when wrong and needs to be proven he is wrong. He gets frustrated by practice, but learns fast. He likes to explore the margins (how clean is a clean room?). He likes to negotiate with persistence and reason and logic. He has a good memory of things that interest him, but minimal interest in details. He’s not afraid to walk alone, but he does not want to be alone. He respects authority and genuinely wants to please others. He likes to read, likes music, and has taste in what is good and bad art. He knows what he likes, and isn’t ashamed to like what he likes. He likes to create and takes pride in his creations. And he likes to play- oh how I wish he never loses his love of play.
To know me is to know I love my son. I know without a doubt that everyone I work with knows I love my boy and they’ve never seen the two of us together. But the greatest thing I can say about him today is that I like him. I like who he is- his personality, his playfulness, his laughter. I like Ian the person as much as I love Ian my son. It is a pleasure to know him, and I am proud to be a part of him. His road will not be easy- life isn’t supposed to be easy. He has a lifetime of tears and heartbreak ahead, but I know that they will pale greatly to the amount of joy and love and success he will see. He is a boy who will love life as a man. He will be a man who is loved by life. I’m proud of him on this day and I pray that every day he always has the wisdom and opportunity to appreciate all that life avails to him.