Our older boy turns 4 tomorrow. Its a funny thing that happens to time when you have kids. Some of the days can last a century, easy, but when you pick your head up on those days when the math is evident, unavoidable and unasailable it feels like it’s a total lie. Their is no way that our night in the hospital and our fist moments of parenthood in a delivery room as a family, running on pure adrenaline and love and fascination, were so long ago. Perhaps its that that moment has been adjacent to each and every moment since so it never feels like we’ve ever fully left that moment.
In the time since we have constructed memories that could sustain several lifetimes. Tiny moments of victory and failure and befuddlement and amusement. It’s enough to make your heart fill to overflowing to think of it. You have changed so much from that little baby boy to the big boy you are today and we are so very proud of you. While we know their are many roads to a magical and fulfilling life, we never knew that the roads we were on, separate at first then together, were roads that were leading us to you. We thank our lucky stars that we managed to find one another because now that we were given the chance to meet you we can’t imagine life without you.
To the world we are a young family (old parents, but young at being a family), toddlers in tow, fairly disheveled, but all in all getting it done. We could be doing a lot better, for sure, but theirs also no denying that we could be doing a lot worse. The truth is its a time in our little man’s life when he is learning at a rate that is so accelerated that you could never put his focus in a box. With every hello, with every question, with every sunrise he’s learning and it’s a journey that we like to think we are facilitating. I guess to a very small degree we are, but largely we’re the security team to our little boys curiosities. He is in the lead and we are trying our damnedest not to get in his way and slow him down. We fail in this effort everyday. Thankfully your determination is never deterred by our limited abilities. We just become one more obstacle to conquer. Which you do everyday.
The truth is that the roles are almost completely reversed from how they appear. Others may see two adults trying to teach their children about anything and everything, but from the second we could conceive of you we’ve been the students and you our tireless teacher who never has given up on us despite our many many attempts to give you reason to do so. But you never do.
I could write a manual about the techniques of parenting that you’ve taught us. Perhaps someday I will. But what I want to use this occasion to do is to simply say thank you to our guide through this greatest challenge and greatest joy we’ll ever know. As with any mentor/mentee dynamic, the lessons we’ve been taught are technical, yes, but it’s the lessons we’ve learned about life that were never the intended curriculum, but also always the whole point of the endeavor that we are thankful for.
I’m sure your mother’s list of cornerstone lessons would vary from mine. She is a different pupil with different needs. This is my list, and I can’t thank you enough for all you have taught me and for all that you will.
- Beware the Tyranny of Cool: This is one that’s going to snap back to bite you in about ten years. Probably sooner. Thanks to you I’m almost completely over my need to be seen as cool on sight. I’m unabashedly and unashamedly and often unavoidably uncool these days. I’m in fact a bit of a hot mess. But since you’ve arrived all of that judgment, all of that self criticism for simply not being seen by others as, I don’t know, cool, is gone. I used to gauge my sense of myself by how I was assessed by others. I didn’t think I did, but you have made me self-possessed and unafraid of what the others think.
- Embrace Failure. Make it Your Friend: Their are things I have to learn in this regard still, but you have started me down the road. Which isn’t to say I avoided failure in the past. Quite to the contrary, prior to you I would very much seek it out. I was so afraid of failure that I defanged it by being in control of it. Best way to control it was to ensure failure. It’s a tactic I’ve used my whole life. I dropped out of kindergarten. Think about that. Now I embrace failure after sincere efforts rather than after self defeating ones. Sincere ones like this very blog. Thanks to you I am no longer seeking out failure nor am I avoiding it. It’s just another outcome that is a thing to learn from. I know. I’ve failed so many times with you and each time I’ve eventually learned and never thrown up my hands and quit. Never could with you. Like all great teachers you inspire me to improve and face challenges forthrightly.
- Put Down Childish Things: This means different things to different people. For me it meant putting down self-consciousness. It meant putting down the bottle or at least putting the bottle in its place. It meant letting go of fear. Fear of failure, fear of commitment, fear of judgment and fear of change. You pretty much took care of many of those that first hour I knew you. For me simply knowing you is enough to have caused a change of tides, a change of truth as I know it.
- Confidence: Not some quantifiable confidence but the confidence that comes with purpose. You weren’t my first influence and your grandparents did a pretty good job of providing me with a sense of purpose. But their was an endpoint to what they could teach as their will be to what you’re able to learn from your mother and I. I have always known I was meant to be helpful and this was something that gave me a goal. But you, you my friend arrived with buckets and buckets of purpose for me to carry. And when you arrived you wasted no time in giving me those buckets. Their have been a great many ups and downs since then, times when it isn’t at all clear what the hell was right, but not for one second since have I ever lost my purpose.
Thank you. I love you with all my heart. Happy Birthday!
4 thoughts on “To Charlie on his 4th Birthday”
Oh Joe such a beautiful tribute of your love for Charlie. I’m a young parent as well older in years and wisdom, with my young little learning sponges. I love it though, even the tough stuff I’ve gone through as it’s made me a better person and parent. Blessings to you and your family. 😊❤️
Jeanine, if you werent such a brilliant writer id tell you to become a ‘writer whisperer’! Thank you so much not just for this today but for all your thoughtful readings and warm encouragement. Wasn’t feeling great about this one and was starting to question its merits then you come along and remind me what its all about! Thank you!!
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Oh Joe what a beautiful compliment. I appreciate your talent, honesty, and love for your family. Never doubt your ability you’re here to share your gift. 😃
Thankk you for being you