15 February 2016
A Letter to My Son II
First, happy birthday. As I told you this morning, you're an extraordinary human being. I'm proud to call you my son and I consider myself lucky every day. I am excited to meet the man you'll become, and watch as you grow into that person. I look forward to sharing your adult life with you as much as I've enjoyed every happy moment we've had so far.
I know we're having differences right now. When you were born, as you grew up from a chubby, determined toddler into an athletic and intellectual whiz, when you beat me over and over in both real sports and video games, all those nights I held you when you were sick, or read to you even after you were asleep, I never once imagined that on your 16th birthday we'd live in different places or be struggling with the issues we now face. This hurts me all the way to the core of my soul; I can never be complete until I've made things right with you.
By now, you've figured out I'm not perfect. I made mistakes that put us in this situation and I can't take them back. Some of those actions weren't mistakes when they happened, and some that might have been mistakes back then don't seem so in hindsight. The point is I will never get it exactly right; I'm just doing my best every day and it's always been because I love you. All of you, mom included.
I'd like to say you'll understand this when you're a man yourself, but by then you will have created your own life with your own collection of mistakes and successes, and your perspective will mean a thousand times more than anything I ever said. I guess that's the tragedy of the generations: we can never really learn from each other. But I do hope you'll believe me, even though you lack this experience now. I have never done anything I didn't believe was the right thing to do for one reason or another. Most of the time, I'm the only one who knows what those reasons are. I don't think that will ever change; that's just the kind of man I am. I sincerely regret if that's made things hard on you/us.
I want our relationship to heal. I want to be able to spend time with you, have you come over and feel comfortable in my home. Which can also be your home, if you give it a chance. Or three. Because it might take more than one. I know you're hurt and you've been angry with me. You don't like all my rules and expectations. You don't like how you've been treated. Some of that will never change, but I hope you'll accept me and love me as your dad anyway. I want you to feel respected and loved, and I'm doing a lot of work to get better at that job, expecially with you.
I'm sure you know this about us: you and I have always struggled to understand each other. Even when you were a baby, I'd get home from work and you'd start crying. It hurt me even then, both because it happened in the first place and because I had no idea how to fix it. As a toddler and little boy, you struggled with rules or when I told you to do something. You tested me and pushed me. You were harder to love than Ax (Sx wasn't around then), so I had to work harder to do it.
That's why I volunteered as assistant coach for your flag football teams and tried to spend more time throwing a ball with you or biking or encouraging you. It's why I invited you to play softball with me and why I always tried to say yes whenever you asked if I could play PS3, even when I would have said no to everyone else.
I had to change how I approached being your dad, and when I did that I discovered you were an even greater treasure than I'd realized, and I felt that my relationship with you was worth even more than the ones that were easy to maintain. It needed more cultivation and therefore grew into something more beautiful. I loved you more than I had before, and in ways that were different than with anyone else; I was your dad in a different way than I was anyone else's dad.
I still think that's all true, so I'm willing to do that work again to change my approach. I'll do whatever I have to do to save our relationship. If we can't go back to that, let's start to understand each other and move forward into something new. Being a father is the most important thing I've ever done, and I'll fight until the day I die to do it right. My dad did that for me, too, when I rejected him. Did you know that happened? It was right about the time I was 16 myself. I wasted a lot of days blaming him for how messed up our family was, even though (I didn't know this at the time) he was only doing his best, too. He didn't have the emotional skills to approach me, and if he tried, I missed it, probably because I was so, so angry at him. I can never have those days back again. I am determined to not to repeat this mistake with you. I'm begging you to join me in making this right.