Me’s Nathanael, Right?

Continuing a new tradition that I began with my daughters’ birthdays last summer, today, on the birthdate of my son, I am sharing lessons I have learned from my middle child.

I’ve spent the day thinking about Nathanael as I sorted through photos and created a sketch for him. These times are precious to me, for the memories they stir and the joy that they bring. This is part of Nate’s story.

I found out I was expecting my second child while having a pre-surgery consultation. Nausea, tiredness and a lack of appetite had sent me to my doctor, who suspected gallbladder issues. Before doing x-rays, he asked if there was any possibility that I might be pregnant.

My answer was no. I was still nursing my one year daughter. I didn’t think I could get pregnant while nursing. I am grateful the doctor decided to do a pregnancy test, just to be sure. I’ll never forget the mischievous smile on his face when he brought the results of the test back into the exam room. Not only was I pregnant…I was already three months along!

What a short pregnancy it seemed to be. And this baby appeared to be in a hurry to get started on his life journey. Six months later, on an icy day much like today, Nathanael Gregory Moore was born, after a brief labor that resulted in me barely making it to the hospital, and his attending doctor not making it at all. A young intern, who had never delivered a baby before, literally caught my son as he rushed into the world.

The things this child, this boy, has taught me. He was wiry and strong as an infant. And he decided what he wanted to do and when he wanted to do it. Nate showed amazing coordination. He sat up and walked early, and climbed everything. Ever curious, ever studying people and situations from every angle, he expressed his unique perspectives about life from an early age.

My son became interested in music and art while still a toddler. A toy trumpet and a small keyboard satisfied him for a while. By age four he could pick out tunes on his keyboard, accurately reproducing songs he had just heard. We bought a full sized piano so Nathanael could begin formal music lessons at age eight. He taught me that ability is a gift, but practice and determination expands that gift into something more. For years he played the piano, performing in recitals with college students, scared sometimes to be before an audience, but always willing to give his best efforts.

Through his sketches and artwork he taught me about fresh perspectives. Nate often drew pictures from unusual angles, or created clever drawings of people in costumes. His sketching ability increased until he could draw anything he saw. He’s a gifted artist today.

Nathanael learned best by doing. When I decided to homeschool my children, my son taught me valuable lessons about how children learn differently, and that it was more important that the curriculum fit the child rather than making the child fit the curriculum. Because of my son, I tossed all our textbooks, six weeks into our first school year, and started over. I realized my first grade son didn’t learn in the same way as his visual learner older sister or his younger sister who was more auditory. He needed a hands on approach.

I switched to a way of teaching known as unit studies and Nate and his sisters flourished. He used his musical and artistic abilities as part of his learning style. When he studied Beethoven, he dressed up as the composer and learned to play his music. He stood beside his desk to read, or circled the room, instead of sitting for hours. And when he heard the wail of a siren, he would run outside to watch the police car rush by. For by age eight, this child of mine already knew what his career path was.

Nathanael wanted to be a police officer. And in making this choice, he has taught me some of my greatest life lessons. Many children want to be police officers or fire fighters. They outgrow those early desires and move on to other careers. Not my son. His early tendency to know what he wanted and go after it played out in full force here. He never wavered from that desire. He moved from playing cops, and building the front half of a police car in his room, to becoming a Police Explorer at age 14, to graduating from the university and the police academy with degrees in criminal justice and law enforcement. He has been serving his community for years now, first as a patrolman, then as a trainer, and now as a sergeant. By his example, Nate has taught me about determination, about following your path and your heart, and about perseverance.

As I’ve thought about my son today, and the extraordinary man he has become, I considered what symbol would represent his life. He is a police officer, as he intended to be. He is also a musician, an artist, a wonderful husband and a fun and attentive dad. He loves his family, his career and his community.

If I got a tattoo that represented my son and his life, what would I choose? The symbol that immediately came to mind was the super hero’s cape. Nate’s daughter used to introduce herself to people, when she was three years old, in this way: “I’m Aubrey. I’m a princess. That’s my dad. He’s a hero.” Wise words from a toddler.

I looked up the symbolism for the cape. It represents a noble heart, helping others, rescuing others, and having gifts and abilities on display. The cape signifies virtue, being set apart, mysteriousness and yes, heroism. A blue cape in particular symbolizes empowered protection.

Those words ring true for my son. He doesn’t wear a cape, but he embodies those characteristics. And he does have super powers. He can’t laser through solid doors with his eyes. But he has a laser sharp focus that sees far ahead and guides his determined steps. He knows what he wants…and he goes the distance to reach his goals.

I sketched out a cape, and colored it in with my pencils…blue of course, police officer blue. As I considered which quote to use with my drawing, two came to mind. One was from Christopher Reeve, the actor who played Superman, which seemed appropriate. The other one that snagged my heart was from the animated film, Hercules. Both characters wore a cape. Which quote to use? These choices are important to me. I asked the Divine. Listen to I Can Go the Distance, the Divine whispered back.

This song is from the Hercules movie. I listened. I knew which quote to use. Part of the lyrics say, “This is where I am meant to be. I will find my way, I can go the distance. I’ll be there someday, if I can be strong. I know every mile will be worth my while. When I go the distance I’ll be right where I belong.”

That’s Nate. He’s been on this journey since the day he was born. When he was a toddler, sitting in his highchair one morning, he listened intently as I explained to Elissa how our family members were all connected. After I finished detailing how everyone was related…grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, parents and siblings…he piped up, “And me’s Nathanael, right?” He was figuring out who he was and where he belonged. He has gone the distance. He is right where he belongs, which is exactly where he wants to be.

Nathanael, my middle child, my son, the one who set his course and followed it, the hero who serves and protects, happy birthday. I love you!

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