For Your Eleventh Birthday

Dear Junior,

I laugh every time I write that or refer to you as “little man,” “Little Jack” or any other derivation thereof. I laugh because none of  those are even close to your name and it feels a bit ridiculous but sometimes I need a different way of referring to you than “son.”

Tomorrow is your birthday. You are going to turn 11 and I am going to spend more than a few minutes thinking about you and the life you are living. It is what parents do. We look at you and wonder how time moves so quickly and ask silly questions like “what happened to the baby boy I used to carry.” I know what happened. Time passed because that is one thing that doesn’t change…ever.

Change is something that you and I talk about frequently. There have been a million changes this year and you don’t even know about what is yet to come. You aren’t real fond of change. I get that because I am not either. I have fought to keep things that same in any number of areas and places and sometimes even been successful.

But that success isn’t black and white. The fact that I managed to stop some sort of change from taking place isn’t indicative of that being a good thing. Sometimes it hasn’t. Sometimes it has kept me pinned down and trapped in situations that were not particularly good.

When I look at those moments I think that change would have been good and that I made a mistake by not doing a better job of just blooming where I was planted. Your great grandfather would talk about those moments and say that you can’t screw an old head on young shoulders.

He was right.

Your grandfather will tell you that it is really hard to predict the future and that sometimes you just have to go with your gut. You can only play the cards that you are dealt.

He is right.

Your old man as you sometimes like to call me will tell you that you have to work hard to do your best at whatever it is you are doing. When you go to sleep at night you need to be able to close your eyes and know that you did what you could with what you had.

I’ll continue along that line of thought and encourage you to let some things happen. Pick and choose your battles carefully because you can’t fight every windmill that you wander across. That is not the advice of an over protective father speaking, it is experience.

I am a fighter and a scrapper. It took me time to recognize that I didn’t have to fight every foe that stepped into the ring. Took a while to recognize that brute strength wasn’t always the best way to try and fix things. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should.

You don’t have to be me and you shouldn’t. Be you. Be the best version of you that you can be. That is a cliche but it is based in truth.

Tomorrow you want to go to 7-11. Your sister told me about this. She is 7 and you are 11 so you think it is fitting. I am game. I love seeing the two of you work together. You are best friends or mortal enemies. I prefer it when you are best friends.

When it comes to your sister I will tell you again that you are her biggest hero. That is why she wants to do whatever you do. Deal with it and in time you will appreciate it.

And don’t ever forget that I am not kidding when I say that if I am not around you are to protect her. It is what big brothers do. It is what I did as a kid and still do for your aunts. Ask them and they’ll tell you. If you don’t like it blame grandap for it, I do. 😉

He won’t care. He’ll laugh and I am good with that. You will be too.

Keep learning as much as you can. I am not kidding nor exaggerating when I say that my education didn’t end with college. You know that I have a big opportunity coming soon. It is here only because I kept reading and because I pushed.

You can do that and do it better than I ever did or have. That is what I want for you. It is what I have always wanted. It is the same thing that every father wants for their children, a better and easier life.

This won’t be the only note that I write you. It might not be the only one that I write for this birthday, but you won’t see it today. This is for later.

One day down the road you’ll read this and you’ll gain more insight into me and what I think/thought. If it goes as I hope that will give you something special and be meaningful to you.

Right now I am feeling a bit lost in the memories of your life. I am lost in thought about my grandparents and how proud they would be of you and how I wish that they could be here to see you.

Last week I carried you. You were sick and so exhausted you didn’t get out of the car. So I picked you up and carried you in like a giant sack of potatoes.

You are well over four feet tall and about 82 pounds now. Eleven years ago you were 9 pounds and 19 inches. You don’t know how strange that feels to me.

I can lift far more than that. That curling bar I keep telling you to stay away from is more than that- but it is dead. You are not. You are so very alive. The little baby who was tucked in my arm like a football is gone.

The day that you were born I stared at you in wonder and awe. Stared and whispered my promises, wondered who you would become. Held you at your Bris and told you that I couldn’t wait to talk to you about so many things.

And now we do. Now I watch you play soccer and help you with your homework. Now I watch as you and your friends grow silent at my approach. I am not a kid in your eyes. You have your world and your secrets. That is ok with me, kind of weird but still cool.

Ok monster, your old man is going now. I have to go swing those weights around a bit so that I can have a few more years of being the strongest man in the house. Got to go because I could write a million more words about how proud I am and how much I love you.

You are capable of so very much.

Love,

Dad

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18 Comments

  1. Jack December 29, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    Hi Joe,

    I know what you mean about wrestling with him. It reminds me of a moment I had when I was 20.

    I am not exaggerating when I say that I was a physical beast then. When I wasn’t in class or screwing around at the fraternity house I was in the gym lifting weights.

    Got to the point where I could curl 150 and benched over 300 and felt like I was invincible. That sort of crap ties into a million other stories, but we’ll save those for a different post.

    Anyhoo, one day I am at my folks house and my dad started wrestling with me. I remember thinking to myself that he was really old (he was 46) and that it should be easy for me to finally win.

    I got his left arm pinned and was starting to gloat when he brought the right arm in and I realized that it was going to be more of a challenge.

    My mother came around to my side and just gave me a look and I realized that I had to stop. I did so for the sake of my father’s honor and years later I am glad that I did.

    I can’t say for certain that I would have won because the men in my family have a lot of natural strength and you never forget that you are wrestling with “Superman.”

    But, I think that in the end I would have felt badly if I had won…

  2. Joe December 29, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    Great post, man. My “little guy” is eleven as well, and it just seems like time is flying so fast. Soon, he’ll be a man, and I won’t be able to wrestle with him anymore…well, not without getting my ass kicked, anyway.

    Thanks for writing this.

  3. Dina December 29, 2011 at 10:10 am

    This is such a sweet letter, Jack, I just love it. Happy birthday to your son, I hope all his birthday wishes come true.

  4. Bill Dorman December 29, 2011 at 10:08 am

    Fabulous post my friend; it was quite the tribute to your son and I know you are proud.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • Jack December 29, 2011 at 12:54 pm

      Hi Bill,

      Thank you. I started writing this blog when he was 3.5 and have documented his birthday each year. I figure that one day it will be a lot of fun for us to go through it together.

  5. Chloe December 28, 2011 at 10:08 pm

    One of the reasons I blog is for my children. Someday, if the Zombie Apocalypse tarries, they’ll be able to have an insight into me that I never had with my own parents.

    Maybe not today or tomorrow, but someday your son will treasure these beautiful words you wrote to him.

    • Jack December 28, 2011 at 11:49 pm

      Hi Chloe,

      That insight is a big part of what I want my kids to have. I sometimes wonder if it is egocentric for me to assume that they will want it, but I think that they will.

      Our parents play such a big role in our lives. I remember my parents in their thirties and the parties when they turned 40, but I don’t know them.

      Well, I know them but I don’t have the words they wrote during those moments in time and I am curious to see what they said/thought.

      • Chloe December 29, 2011 at 11:14 am

        I do believe that they will want to know, someday, just like you and I would like to know today what our parents thought about things, and why they did the things they did.

        • Jack December 29, 2011 at 12:53 pm

          Chloe,

          If I had a prize to give you I would do so immediately because by agreeing with me you prove that you are woman of taste, wisdom and distinction.

          Of course I need to add the caveat that my closest friends would say that proves you have no judgment but what do they know anyway.

  6. Gini Dietrich December 28, 2011 at 5:13 pm

    I hope you save these blog posts and give them to your kids, in a book, someday. This is beautiful.

    • Jack December 28, 2011 at 11:37 pm

      Hi Gini,

      Absolutely. I want them to have them all to read and look at it for the years to come.

      Thank you for your kind words, they are always appreciated.

  7. Renee Schuls-Jacobson December 28, 2011 at 5:02 pm

    So lovely. Soon I will have to write the speech for my son’s bar mitzvah. I wish my husband would do it, but I guess I’m the writer in the family.

    Anyway, I think you said these truths so beautifully. My boy is so much wiser than I was at his age. I don’t know how I got such an old soul for a son, but G-d seems to know what I needed. My boy teaches me lessons everyday. And I am grateful he is in my life.

    Happy b’day to your little monster. Just wait until next year. Oy!

    • Jack December 28, 2011 at 11:28 pm

      Hi Renee,

      Your son sounds great. That is so exciting to be writing a Bar Mitvah speech. I have thought about that a little.

      Time moves far too quickly- I love watching him grow but wouldn’t mind if he slowed down for a few moments.

  8. vanita December 28, 2011 at 4:25 pm

    the time just flies, doesn’t it Jack? I already have a 15 yo though i swear i’m 25. lol. she’s talking about college non-stop while i remember he talking about her first week of Pre-K. happy birthday to your son Jack. wishes for health and happiness.

    • Jack December 28, 2011 at 11:25 pm

      Hi Vanita,

      It must be a mix of neat, cool and aggravation to have a 15 year-old. I can wait for it, but I must admit to being excited and curious.

      Thank you for the good wishes.

  9. Sandi Amorim December 28, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    Love it Jack, just love it. I’ve sometimes written letters to my parents on my blog. Same feeling in my heart.

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