View from Rue Saint-Georges

Fathers and Sons

Shaping up for the big event

By Thomas Chatterton Williams | June 20, 2018

My wife is due to give birth to a boy in about three weeks, and the prospect of having a son is playing on my sense of self in some predictable (read: downright clichéd) but also surprising ways—ways, if I’m honest, that having a daughter never did. Ways that are tangled up with my deepest vision of myself.

On a primordial level, I accept that my boy will eventually render me obsolete. I would be disappointed if he didn’t. Beyond just making sure my jump shot and backhand still work, though, I’ve been thinking a lot about how I will look to him, physically. I have such wonderful memories of my own father’s seemingly infinite strength, his outrageous ability to throw a perfect spiral for what seemed like miles, and the agility and force with which he could bob and weave and attack a speed bag in the basement.

It’s superficial perhaps—all a child needs and wants is love—but it’s a powerful motivating factor nonetheless, one that has me swimming, rowing, and pumping iron for the first time in a decade. The idea that my boy might find me hunched over a laptop, pallid and paunchy and easily winded, is one I can’t abide. The result of all this preparation is that I feel better than I have in years. Perhaps this is just one of the subtle ways our children end up improving us. And frankly, it doesn’t hurt that, at the gym my son has scared me into, French film star Marion Cotillard is a regular.

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