My son Matt when he was about 8 or 9 years old (I’m guessing) had a best friend named Ethan. Ethan was a scrawny little kid and wore glasses. The kind of kid that had you looked up the word “Nerd” in the dictionary, you might expect to see his photo, or at least something close to it. His would have been a more modern replacement for my own. In many ways he was like me but not nearly as bad. I was as nerdy/goofy as they came. the best of them! King Nerd… I have proof!
Well one day after church and seeing the both of them together, as they normally were, I asked my son (and I’m embarrassed to admit it, even though it was a bit tongue-in-cheek);
“Matt, why do you hang out with Ethan, he’s such a nerdy kid?” Matt’s reply was tainted with a sense of annoyance, maybe even a little hurt. All he said was “Dad! He’s my friend!” Those four written words don’t do justice to how they came back to me. Matt’s response was such that there was nothing more to say. In fact I immediately felt bad, really bad (and still do), that I had misspoken and questioned my son’s choice in who he wanted to be his friend. Matt was a good kid and Ethan came from a great family, his parents were our friends. He was a nice boy.
Fast forward about 20-plus years or so. Matt is married now and although they don’t live close to one another Ethan and he are still the best of friends. They see each other as often as they can and stay in regular contact through email and phone calls as best friends do. Ethan, to say the least, is no longer that scrawny little guy I once knew him to be. He’s a body builder now and I would guess can easily bench-press several hundred pounds. He could clean and jerk me to the floor and have me begging for mercy in seconds! Whenever I see him, I always ask him to flex those massive biceps. All I can ever say is wow! He’s grown up to be quite a man!
More important than all that though, Ethan today is an officer in the United States Army. As I write this he’s serving in Afghanistan, a leader among our American troops. To say the least, I’m proud to know him. Prouder still that Matt had the sense and good-fortune to choose Ethan as his best friend and to set his dad straight — all those years ago — on a decision that was his to make.
Matt was right, I was wrong. Lesson learned? While it’s always good to keep an eye on those your kids choose for friends, don’t be too judgmental, things aren’t always as they seem. Time marches on, kids grow up. Little boys become men. They go off to war. Dads grow older, hopefully wiser.