Dear Son

“My child arrived just the other day
He came to the world in the usual way
But there were planes to catch and bills to pay
He learned to walk while I was away
And he was talkin’ ‘fore I knew it, and as he grew
He’d say “I’m gonna be like you dad
You know I’m gonna be like you””

Cats In The Cradle

Dear Son,

The ides of March are upon us or maybe they have just passed us by- sometimes it is hard to say. You stayed home from school today and hung out with me. I am a work from home father who is busting my ass in 69 ways to provide for you and your sister. I wasn’t completely convinced that you were sick but I had a feeling that you might need a mental health day which is why I agreed to you staying home.  Not to mention that our initial plan was for you to go to school late, around 11 or so.

We rarely do this and you never miss school due to illness so it seemed ok. You climbed into my bed, turned on the television and hung out while I went to work in the other room. Periodically you would venture out looking for food or just to check on me. You probably didn’t noticed that every time you came out I was shocked by how big you are now. I know that this sounds ridiculous to you, but it is something that parents do. Time really does move faster than we realize. After I finish writing this post I have to put one together for The Red Dress Club about kindergarten.

That is 37 years ago, kindergarten that is. I haven’t quite figured out what angle I want to take for the post so you could say that this is my way of stalling. I find it interesting to think about certain similarities between now and then. The country was at war and the president was under fire. The economy wasn’t particularly good either. But some things are very different. When you learn about Martin Luther King Jr. you ask me questions about skin color. You don’t know racism. You don’t understand it, you never have. Your little sister really doesn’t get it. To you color is insignificant and I am happy about that.

Your parents have taught you to be color blind and to judge people based upon their actions. But in 1974 the idea that we could have a Black president was a dream to a lot of people. I can’t say that I ever thought about it. I was five and pissed off that I had twin sisters. I already had a little sister and what did your grandparents do? They brought home two more. Back to Dr. King for a moment. He was assassinated in 1968, just six years before I started kindergarten. It won’t take long for you to start to realize that six years doesn’t feel very long to people.

Ten years ago you were an infant and I remember it like it was today. You don’t really remember the business trips that I used to take. You certainly don’t know that I would spend time looking for gifts for you or how I hated to say goodbye. You don’t remember playing with blocks on 9/11. Thankfully you were too young to remember, but I remember. I remember watching the towers burn and the jumpers. I remember knowing that people were dying and that war was coming. I remember wondering what the world would look like when you were 18.

You have been the source of so many of these posts as has your sister. I watch you grow and marvel at the things you do. You are smarter than I am. So sharp and so very clever. But you also have some of my traits that are less noble. That fire that burns in my belly burns in yours too. You internalize a lot and live a million years inside your head. Sometimes it hurts me to see the pain you put yourself through. It hurts me because I blame myself for passing that along. I can’t fix these things. I can’t take apart your head and rebuild the things that I don’t like or that you don’t like.

I can only try to help you work through it and figure it out like I have. Don’t get me wrong, you are perfectly normal but it is hard for parents to watch our children get hurt. But I won’t protect you from everything. I won’t let you win every game. I won’t let you beat me unless you earn it. Life isn’t fair and it never will be. So sometimes I have to be hard and let you fail so that you learn.

It doesn’t mean that I am going to let your self esteem be destroyed, but I will teach you how to lose gracefully. I will teach you that failure is something that can make you stronger. It sucks. I hate it. I have failed at a number of things. I have fallen down and wondered how I was going to pick myself up.

Those moments are probably what pain me the most because like you, I remember them.I hear the echoes of the past in the present. But you cannot be afraid to try things. You cannot let fear rule you. Be brave. Be bold. Be fierce. Sometime it is important and necessary to let the chains fall and run with the moon. Unleash your passion and dance in the fire. And never forget that your father will always love you. You won’t always understand why I do what I do or make the choices I make, but I ask that you trust me and accept that even when you don’t there will come a time when it will make more sense.

There will be more of these letters, but if for some reason there isn’t take care of your family and trust your instincts. You may not always know what to do but you will figure it out and land on your feet.


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  1. ChopperPapa April 4, 2011 at 6:50 pm

    One of my favorite songs of all time.

  2. Amy T. March 29, 2011 at 6:14 am

    Beautiful post – Cats in the Cradle is one of those songs that resonated with me very much.

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