Yesterday after school you sheepishly brandished a yellow slip from your 2nd grade teacher explaining that you did not complete that day’s class work. This was not the first yellow slip I’d seen, as it had become a trend the previous few weeks, so the sight of another discouraged me. Since tickets to that night’s Wizard’s game were already purchased and a lie to divert your little brother’s attention from his being left out already cooked, I refrained from raising any kind of hell because the last thing I wanted was to attend your first NBA game at odds with each other. Instead we had a stern, relatively emotionless chat that still somehow left us both drained. When the sitter showed and we both scrambled in a frenzy about the house, getting ready to leave, we collided on the steps and hugged it out. Then you, mid-embrace, age 7, said: ‘I accept you.’
That's the one of the deepest things anyone has ever said to me and it left me utterly speechless, almost gagging on the sudden knot that developed in my throat. A phrase like that feels just too nuanced, too heavy, too soulful for a kid your age to express, and I suddenly questioned the world and myself over putting you in a position to feel and say such a thing. It really dressed me down, and I could not be more thankful for it.
It's clear this stuck like a rock in your shoe this morning, which explains the letter you left for me. It absolutely slayed me with it's endearing misspellings, your cute use of ellipses and the random colon, and I remained preoccupied by it at the office. I'm in the 9 to 5 business of relationship management, but the matter of our bond eclipsed all of that so much that I bailed early to come home and pour these words out.
At the end of the day, I realize that being a kid often boils down to winning and retaining the approval of your parents. What you might not know is, that concept is supposed to be a two way street, and too often parents falter at holding up their end of it because many of us are rudderless vessels in choppy waters fumbling both map and compass, pretending to have our shit together while behind the scenes feverishly trying to figure that shit out, perpetually afraid we're going to be exposed and hopefully one day happening upon something that ties it all together, an anchor for the whole production. Speaking for myself, I am winging parenthood and learning as I go, often from my own mistakes. I'm fucked up, and my biggest fear, which to some degree has already been realized, is that I will ultimately fail at harboring you from the rising tide of everything that composes me. If there is any truth to what Larkin penned, it's a foregone conclusion that this tide will wash over you, and your brother.
If or when it does, may this half-baked attempt at perspective enlighten you enough to know that when it comes to us parents, it's cool to respect your elders, but don't let any of us fool you into thinking we are so much farther ahead on the curve of figuring out what the fuck this is all supposed to mean or how we're ever to find balance. It's okay to stumble. We're all doing it.
I don't want to be on a pedestal; it doesn't suit me. I love being your dad; it's an honor. All that being said, sometimes I wonder if we're better off just being best friends who happen to be father-son. Perhaps if we see it that way, with no titles or labels and undertones of status, we'll just live and learn from each other and not get hung up making mountains of molehills.
So, in response to your letter, and in conclusion, since you already put it so perfectly, all I can say is: Ditto.
Love and rockets,