A letter to my son.
It was a year ago that I had a chance to tell you how much I thought of you at 16. It is now a year later and I find my mind wandering to memories of you and of us, father and son. I wanted to share some stories so they are written down for all posterity.
Let’s start with our first time together. A couple of weeks after your mom and I met I came to pick the two of you up for our first date. She did not have a sitter and I saw no reason to wait for another time. After all there were several 2 year olds in my life at the time.
I rang the bell and when the door opened your mom hardly had time to say hello when you boldly took me by the hand, clutching a book in the other, and declared, “read to me”. We walked to the couch and read. Next on to the local Borders to listen to jazz. You mostly ran circles around our table while I tried to make conversation with your mom. By the end of the evening I was not entirely sure about your mom but you had won me over.
Thirteen months later we all became a family. I now had the two things most missing from my life, a wife and a child. It was a hard transition for all of us at first. You were in a strange house and missed being with Nana and Grandpa. I had immediately gone from being this guy to play with to being your dad. We both had a lot to learn about the father/son relationship. Still do.
We made the it. In those early years you and I played together. I was awful at soccer. By age 4 you were better than me. At least for several years we had baseball. Given the chance you could spend all day playing catch. It amazes me now to look at our small backyard and realize that we were able to play there a long, long time ago. Your arm quickly outgrew the yard. Then at some point you outgrew me as I could no longer handle your strong throws.
I do not know if you remember the time, you must have been about 5, you threw the ball out of the yard I retrieved it and threw it back to you a little too hard. The ball hit you in the face. You where standing behind the bushes as I raced back to see if you were hurt. You looked at me, said something kinda like, “you are not my dad” and stormed into the house. You would hardly go near me for the almost two weeks. Those were some of the hardest and saddest days of my life. We got past that too.
So many things about you are popping into my head that this letter will become a book if I try to write them all. Let me hit some of my highlights.
Getting you ready for bed when you were young was my time. We might take a bath together, squirting each other, play with toys and laughing. Getting clean has never been so much fun since. The bed time stories I made up. Some of your favorites were the ones about the boy and the magic llama, the two German Shepard’s and their families, the knights of the round table and the three friends. Then there was the time we made the huge tower. What a project. That was when I learned how rule bound I was as a dad. You wanted to experiment and try putting pieces together your way. I insisted we follow the detailed instructions. With your son, remember to let him try different things and use his imagination as I should have with you. There will be lots of time later to follow directions.
School. You grew a lot in school. I wish I had found a way to help with your homework that would not have left us both angry. I understand why you do not look for my help now. I tend to be judgemental rather than supportive. Please accept my apology. On he other hand, the high standards that I hold for you I hope you hold for yourself. You are a bright and capable young man.
Lets see. What to talk to you about next. Sports. what else. you have natural talent and excelled at whatever sport you tried. While baseball and soccer have become your school sports, lets not forget the hours spent with basketball, ping pong, flag football, track, badminton and whatever else I forgot. I wish I had been good enough to coach you in something as your mom did in soccer. I know you think I have missed a lot of games, and I have, but I have also seen more hours of you playing some sport than I could ever count.
These teen years have been hard for me. They started so well with the wonderful performance you gave at your Bar Mitzvah. I love that you and your friends will still occasionally pull out the DVD and watch it.
Once you decided that hugging and kissing your dad was no longer appropriate I lost a big part of the way I connected to you. I am a touchy kind of guy who wants to show affection through hugs and kisses. My dad was not that way but I picked it up from my mom. I am glad that you seem to be relaxing the rule a bit. When you woke up on your seventeenth birthday today you came over and we hugged. Thanks for that.
In about a year and a half you will go away to college and our relationship will change forever. You will be much more in charge of your life. This will be both good for you and a little hard for me. I hope that I have done my part to prepare you. Be patient with me as I get used to it.
Next year I will add more stories from the middle of your life. For now just know that I love you and am proud of you.