Dear Son –
As letters flow around the internet these days, from men talking about their marriages both happy and failed, women doing the same, daddies to their baby girls, and fathers to their sons, I felt the need to throw mine in the mix.
A son is something I think most men hope for when they find out their wife is pregnant – a little buddy to play catch and take camping and play rough with. And I remember a conversation I had with a coworker one night when you were very small and I was working the graveyard shift to get more time at home with you, talking about how her five-year old son had recently “broken up with her” for her husband, who was Dad, and therefore obviously way cooler.
I laughed. But then I came home, and it seemed so far away as your little few-pound self was just waking up with sleep still in your eyes and counting on me to get you fed and dry.
Then the months swayed on like they do, and we went through the days and nights where if anything was amiss at all the first thing out of your mouth was my name. I think in my mind I will hear the way “mama” sounded from your sweet little lips until the day I die. But today, at almost a year old, you tumbled over while you were playing, and even though I rushed to you, your eyes teared up and you looked to the window and cried “Daddy!” Daddy, who you haven’t even seen in three months, who I wasn’t sure you would even remember. It wasn’t “Mama” anymore, at least for today. And I realized something: you WILL one day break up with me, and dedicate your time to Boy Scout trips and bike rides and sports, and Daddy will become your hero.
The thing is, though, little boy, that I’m not upset by that, because I know that Mama will always be your safe harbor. Just like my mama has been to me, especially in my adulthood, I will get to be the maker of God-sent home cooking in your college years when ramen and Gatorade line the one shelf of your pantry, the sender of packages of things you didn’t even realize you’d needed to live on your own, the keeper of traditions when you bring your own kids back home for the holidays, the reason you know your ABC’s and 123’s and can write your name, the foundation of your love of books and reading and knowledge, the one your wife will one day thank because you still open the car door for her and tell her that she’s beautiful and meaningful and special. I will always be part of the reason that you are who you are, just like your daddy will be, in different ways.
So, I hope that I can raise you up to be a good man, a good husband, a good student, a good teacher, a good worker, a good friend. I hope you learn respect. I hope you thank your wife for cleaning the house as best she can after putting in a full day’s work; I hope you appreciate the time she will spend raising up your own children, because it’s not as easy as it looks. I hope you tell her she’s beautiful regardless of how much time she spent to look that way, because sometimes, son, life gets in the way of glamor, and people who are hungry for that are probably seeking your attention for the wrong reasons anyway. I hope you ENJOY the religion you choose, so that you can be an enthusiastic leader to your household and friends – what better compliment could there be? I hope you at least ask me before you forge my name on a piece of homework you forgot to get signed. I hope that you don’t get drug into this country’s addiction with hand-outs – believe me, there will be no satisfaction in sitting around your house all day doing nothing and getting handed things you didn’t earn, and one day you will pay for it – or be rewarded for it, if you choose to forgo those things. Or maybe you will never be rewarded, other than knowing you have done the right thing and lived blamelessly and left the help for those who truly needed it, but that is worth it in itself. That said, I hope you jump to help people you know are really in need of something. I hope you will admit when you’re wrong. I hope that you will always be as sweet to animals as you are with Buster now, because a good dog is a great thing to have. I hope that your wedding day is the best day of your life, then trumped when you see your first child for the first time. I hope you take shifts during the night to help your wife out like your daddy did with me, when she’s exhausted and frustrated and hasn’t slept in days. I hope you bring her flowers for no reason. I hope you remember all the cool Elf on the Shelf scenarios I cook up.
But most of all, son, I hope you never question my undying love for you. I know that even though in a few years Daddy will be the coolest guy you’ve ever met, you’ll always love me for being Mommy, even on the days when the “uncoolness” wins out and you refuse to give me a kiss in the carpool line because “EVERYONE would see it”. And I hope you know that no matter how old you get, or where you go, or who you’re with, or how far or old you are, I’ll never break up with you, either. And you’ll really appreciate that one day, when you’re craving some homemade macaroni and cheese.