For Your Eleventh Birthday
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 Â 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.