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Tuesday, January 28th, 2014
3 years, 2 months.
During the holidays last month, there was a day where I had to work, but you and Mommy were home.
I didn’t realize it until here recently, but I found these pictures that Mommy took of you wearing my hat and slippers. You had proclaimed to Mommy:
“I’m being Daddy!”
Deep thought: In your eyes, what does it mean to “be Daddy”?
It happened again yesterday afternoon, as we had just finished watching Brother Bear 2 on Netflix. In the movie, the main character, a girl named Nita, chooses to turn into a bear.
As you played trains on the carpet with Mommy, I asked you if you wanted me to turn into a bear. Out of curiosity, you said yes.
In the likeness of Brother Bear 2, I stood up, sort of twirling in slow motion through the air, and when I crouched back down, I pretended to be a roaring bear.
Almost immediately, you stopped me:
“Go back to being a daddy!”
So with another slow motion twirl in the air, I turned back into “a daddy.”
But what does in mean, in your eyes, to be a Daddy? And more importantly, to be your Daddy?
For me, it was one of those moments in time where I got accidental confirmation that I must be doing something right, as your parent.
Whatever it means to you that I’m your Daddy, it’s a thing you want and need.
This reminds me of a quote from one of my favorite movies, Garden State:
“It’s like you feel homesick for a place that doesn’t even exist. Maybe it’s like this rite of passage, you know. You won’t ever have this feeling again until you create a new idea of home for yourself, you know, for your kids, for the family you start, it’s like a cycle or something. I don’t know, but I miss the idea of it, you know. Maybe that’s all family really is. A group of people that miss the same imaginary place.”
Last night as I wrapped you up in your snowman blanket, singing you “Yellow Submarine,” I heard the mix of nostalgic sadness and happiness in the song.
I imagined what that must be like on your end. I remember. I do…
There’s this deep sentimental connection between a parent and a child about your age; a certain connection I still remember having with my parents in the early 1980s.
You’re in it, right now. You’re in it.
I’m not saying that feeling goes away, but I recognize it as particularly special during those preschool years, when lullabies and stuffed animals are part of everyday life.
It feels like… home. It’s both happy and sad.
The reason it’s sad is because it’s so happy and, deep down, you know it won’t last forever.
You know that the two of you will both grow up and eventually become both be adults.
But as for right now, you get to be the cute little boy, ironically wearing Daddy’s hat and slippers.
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Tuesday, January 21st, 2014
3 years, 2 months.
While we were in Alabama last weekend celebrating your Auntie Dana’s 30th birthday, I heard her say something clever.
It was an interesting, parenting-related spin on a very popular catch-phrase of 2013: “YOLO,” which stands for “you only live once.”
In reference to raising your 2 and a half year-old cousin, Calla, your Auntie Dana’s motto is “you’re only little once.”
As a parent, this new twist on “YOLO” is a simple phrase to remind me that however enjoyable, or frustrating, a particular moment in parenting may be, it’s a fleeting event to be appreciated either way.
One of my favorite TV shows ever, The Office, ended last May. In the final episode, Andy Bernard had one of the best lines in the entire series, in my opinion:
“I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.”
I have always been a very nostalgic guy; yearning for the past.
Nineteen eighty-something and Nineteen ninety-something are definitely warmer, safer, easier places for me to escape to, in my mind.
I graduated high school in 1999, nearly 15 years ago. So for me, anything that has happened in the year 2000 or beyond has taken place in my adult life.
My childhood (1981-1999) ended right before the 2000s began, which is why I am the very oldest of Generation Y. (We Millennials began adulthood once the Nineties were over.)
But as for you, from 2010 to 2028 is the span of years designated for your childhood; your warmest, safest, easiest place to be alive.
For you, it’s not a collection of old memories. Instead, you’re living it right now.
And I feel like I’m your host.
I feel like the Ryan Seacrest of your childhood.
You’re only little once. You’re only this young once- when things are still so obviously magical and mysterious.
When animals can talk. When getting a new Hot Wheel car is a big deal. When just running around the room in your pajamas in front of Mommy and Daddy is the highlight of your day.
These are the good ole days. You’re far from leaving them.
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Sunday, December 15th, 2013
I feel like there’s this stereotype about fathers, that especially as they get older, they tend to have less of an open door policy with their sons.
And I get it.
By the time the two are both grown men, there’s almost this unspoken rule that the two can’t or shouldn’t talk to each other about serious stuff, involving the need for jpersonal advice… because they’re both grown men.
However, that’s the very reason they should depend on each other in that way.
For me personally, I can’t just talk to any guy friend about certain stuff.
My heart is very guarded. I know that may seem out of character for me, being that I appear to spill my guts out in these letters to you. But there’s a whole lot I keep private.
Rabbit trail here, but as I’m nearing my H.R. certification exam on January 11th, I’m planning to start focusing more time on writing songs again (which is why I moved to Nashville in the first place) because soon I won’t have to spend all my free time (which isn’t much) on studying. I can begin easing my way back into my forsaken hobby of creating music.
One of the songs I’m working on contains this line:
“I am a skeleton with meat on my bones/I walk around with secrets nobody knows.”
I think a lot of men feel that way. I think that’s why classic superheroes are so popular. Batman is the example that comes to my mind, immediately. In a way, superheroes compensate their own personal failures, fears, and insecurities by leading and helping others. It’s a great escape and a perfect distraction.
Yet still, they have received an emotional scar at some point in life that characterizes, and in some ways, defines who they are.
I can relate. I have an emotional scar or two. And I would actually be surprised to meet a man who didn’t feel that way about himself. It’s for that very reason it’s important you’ve always got other men to depend on, emotionally… or psychologically, or whatever you want to call it.
It’s not that I don’t trust other men, but it does take a lot to make myself that emotionally vulnerable. It’s easier just to keep it inside and try to sort it out myself, a lot of the time.
I’m realizing I’ve got more to say about this than I realized, so let me put a bookmark right here. Go grab yourself a glass of water, then come back and read the rest of this letter.
To be continued…
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Wednesday, November 27th, 2013
On the 2nd half of your monster truck road trip in the Toyota Tundra to celebrate your 3rd birthday, we stopped by an old abandoned amusement park, called Canyon Land Park, right outside my hometime in Fort Payne, AL. Here’s an old vintage postcard of the place in its prime:
In the likeness of the Dharma Initiative on Lost, this random amusement park thrived from around 1973 to circa 1983; until the place shut down. It even had a skylift that went over the canyon as well as a mini zoo featuring exotic animals!
Canyon Land Park has remained virtually untouched for 30 years.
The only exception I know of was exactly 20 years ago in October 1993, when my church’s youth group rented out the old (creepy) facility for a Halloween, for something called Hell House. (A Christian version of a spook house.)
One of the reasons I wanted to stop by the place is because exactly 40 years ago, Nonna and Papa (my parents) went on one of their first dates there.
It made sense to include what’s left of Canyon Land Park as part of this monster truck road trip, as it obviously had something to do with you and me even being here in the first place.
Turns out, there wasn’t a whole lot to see, as we parked the truck outside the rusted barb wire fence. I was able to make out what used to be a putt-putt golf course, but that was about it.
For all I know, there are black bears and wild hogs living in those old brick buildings that at one time brought in thousands of tourists. Maybe one day someone will purchase the land and make it the seemingly awesome and unique amusement park it once was.
I wish there would have been more to show you there, but at least the event served its purpose: to go off the beaten path in a “monster truck” and make an adventure of some things in life that most people don’t get to see every day.
We still had one more final stop on our monster truck road trip, though.
To be continued…
Disclaimer: The vehicle mentioned in this story was provided at the expense of Toyota, for the purpose of reviewing.
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Sunday, November 17th, 2013
3 years old.
For your last two birthdays, Mommy and I didn’t keep things simple.
We combined both friends and family to have an official birthday party, each time.
Even though our “family life” is so much more stabilized and easier than it was for the past two years, without giving it much thought, perhaps by default, Mommy and I decided to have a purposesly low key (!) birthday party for you.
So we did things a bit off beat…
First, on Saturday, the morning of your birthday, we had your first and best friend over, with her parents.
As this picture collage that Sophie’s parents made illustrates, you two had plenty of unscripted fun.
My favorite part to witness was when Sophie suggested, “Come on, Jack. Let’s go upstairs!”
So we all trekked up to your boy cave.
I’ve mentioned before, we have the top half of a rockasan in your bedroom that serves as a “boat.” You and Sophie had a great time giving each other rides in it.
And somehow, even though I was only feet away, I missed the moment when Sophie ended up with the toy basket on top of her head.
Of course, after lunch, both of you were in need of a nap, so the celebration came to an end, but not before we all had some of Mommy’s yummy vegan cupcakes!
After Sophie left, we aimed for a nap, which I think ended up turning into us watching part of Monsters, Inc. that Sophie got for you. (You now own your first Disney movie!)
Then later in the afternoon, we had two more of your friends up with their parents, and essentially repeated what happened earlier that day.
It wasn’t until just now, as I put these pictures together, that I realized only girls came to your birthday party.
(Your friend Troy was out of town and couldn’t make it, by the way.)
So it made it that much funnier that in the goody bags we gave to them, each friend received a Hot Wheels pick-up truck.
Yes, and that’s pretty much your 3rd birthday party. Of course, we’re going to spend next weekend with my family to celebrate your birthday with them… and I have a special surprise being shipped in from Atlanta… or I should say, driven in…
You’ll see what I mean in a couple days!
(Plus, I just have a feeling that to be so mellow about your 3rd birthday party, we will end up making up for it with your 4th birthday party.)
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