Writing about my children is tricky business.
It started nearly five years ago when I wrote my most popular column ever, about teaching my daughter to drive. She did not love it. In fact, she forbade me from ever writing about her again.
She got over it.
Last week, I wrote about taking her and two of my sons to the movies. The third son stayed home because he had to wake up early to compete in the academic bowl.
Naturally, I referred to the other two sons as "non-academic."
This week, I got an afternoon text from one of those sons, who's a sophomore in high school. That day in chemistry class, his teacher, Dr. Spraggins, had called him to the board to solve an equation and prove he wasn't non-academic.
My son didn't get the joke. That's when he learned I'd written about him.
So he texted me this: "Did you call me non-achedimic in the paper haha."
Haha indeed. Where to begin?
But I was reminded of one thing I learn over and over again as a parent: If you try to label or pigeonhole your kids, they'll surprise you every time.
Take my oldest son, who's a senior in high school.
When he turned 5, my parents gave him a Lego space shuttle kit recommended for children ages 14 and up. He built it by himself in a day, and we decided then that he was going to Georgia Tech and becoming an engineer.
In the past month or so, as the application deadline for Georgia Tech came and went, he announced that while he hadn't ruled out engineering, he would be attending a university that also offered other options, such as forestry and fisheries.
That was a surprise. Kind of like the time when my daughter was in high school and asked for money to take the AP Economics test.
Bess and I actually told her -- this is some great parenting -- that she would just be wasting money. After all, she wasn't great with numbers, and she was planning to be an elementary teacher.
She took the test anyway. She aced it and got a bunch of college credit.
That was a surprise. Kind of like the time that the middle son, the "non achedimic" one, was 12 years old and asked us to drive him to basketball tryouts for middle school.
He was never going to make the team, and Bess and I were both too busy to drive him.
We told him so.
"You're robbing me of a great opportunity," he said.
"Do you really think you'd make the team?" I asked.
"Of course not," he said. "But failure builds perseverance and character. The more I fail, the stronger I'll get and the more likely I'll accomplish something great someday."
"Who are you?" I asked. "Abraham Lincoln?"
That was a surprise. Kind of like the other day, when I asked my youngest son, who's 13, what he wanted to become. You
know, he's the academic one.
I had him pegged for computer engineering. At Georgia Tech, of course.
"You don't want to be a forest ranger, do you?" I asked.
"Oh no," he said. "I'm going to do something practical."
"Sounds terrific," I said. "Enlighten me."
"I'm going to be a chef," he said.
Did I mention they'll surprise you every time?
Dimon Kendrick-Holmes, executive editor, at firstname.lastname@example.org.