<begin self-indulgent letter to a little boy to be read some day in the future>
Dear sweet pal,
I’d heard everyone say it. In a previous life, I couldn’t have counted how many times my pals with kids discreetly and not-so-discreetly asked me, “So, when are you going to be a dad?” or “How come you don’t have kids, yet?” For many of those years I fielded kind words from my friends who considered me well suited for it, who wondered aloud why I was taking so long.
I worked hard to convince myself they were mad for giving up so many of their resources, hearing only their complaints about not having enough of them to do the things they wanted to do because “the kids” have this-or-that-going-on, preventing them from participating in more selfish pursuits that required the most precious resource of all – time.
Meanwhile, I was spending mine on every indulgence. Travel, people, ideas, projects, experiences. I’m grateful to not know what boredom is, being born with a curiosity disease that makes me a stranger to it. Put me in a room and I occupy myself indefinitely, learning about people, ideas, the world.
While she was alive, the stories Mom used to share about me all went like this, too, what she called a “tirelessly happy quest to learn everything” from the moment I started to walk.
Yet, in all those years of self-indulgence, in the midst of all those rich learning experiences, I was missing something. It was great sometimes. It was also unfulfilling. I grew stymied by my own modest success in learning about the world, the people, ideas, and technology that I watched slowly but surely change a culture that worked hard and against itself in an attempt to resist any change at all.
Eventually, without any true sacrifice, without a bona fide selfless reason for it all, one day I woke up and slowly began to allow the idea in – that it all meant very little without an authentic commitment to something much larger than myself.
I felt I’d done all there was to do in the context of fulfilling what now seems like small-minded, selfish goals. Gratefully, those mostly turned out to be valuable pieces of the puzzle, though, skills, tools, and experience that I would have no way of knowing how valuable they would be now to help shape you and your own tools for navigating the world. From where I sit writing to you in this moment, it’s easy to connect the dots backwards.
Before you arrived, I clearly spent a majority of my free time during those years volunteering with kid-focused organizations in many capacities, mostly community, art, and technology-based programs. Mentoring was something I didn’t even know I was doing but I sure was doing a lot of it. My wife at the time knew it and told me so with openness and honesty, even as she was firmly against the idea of having children and knew what it might ultimately mean for our relationship. Little did either of us know that some of those experiences would lead us each to other, better worlds but not without first weathering some challenging times, people, and places.
Oh, funny life. Helping others realize their own potential is key to the search for finding our own.
I’m grateful for so many things, moment to moment, not least of which is this grand poobah of all adventures – being your daddy. I thought I knew what mentoring was, what true collaboration was. I thought I had an idea of how much I had to learn about patience, listening, observing, slow intention, and taking care of myself so that I may take care of someone else, how to love and be loved, what’s worth sacrificing and what’s not (like spending time with you while you are so young). What I’ve learned in the past six years is astoundingly dense in contrast to any that preceded them. I’m grateful I have always preferred quality over quantity.
There was a time, not so long ago, I presumed to be standing on the edge of understanding what was important to me. It may have been practice or it may have just been wasting time. These days, my planets all revolve around your Sun, powered by a kind of generosity I wouldn’t know I was capable of, let alone needed so desperately to make the center of my life and learning, until I first met you. Somehow, there are more authentic versions of such heavy things following me around the way breezes tumble leaves around ankles, sauntering along into the wild world with a curious mind and an open heart.
Looking into the eyes of your child creates these kinds of feelings. My pals were hardly kidding when they tried to tell me so. Thanks to their gifts, sharing those inspiring stories, I have logged every one as part of the inspiration that powers my own experience with you now. No small thing. Thanks, pals.
Since you showed up, now six years later, I’m invested headlong into my life’s best work – the best project I could possibly imagine – demanding the best of everything I’ve learned so far about people, myself, art, media, learning and how to learn, teaching, writing, reading, thinking, technology, and so so so much more than I’m able to transmit in such a meager forum as this – the magnum opus of multi-disciplinary, human-focused projects I could ever make a contribution to – you.
Sweet pal, I hope you never tire of hearing me say it: I owe you such a debt of gratitude. You’ve made my life so rich. Thank you.
This is now my definition of success. Whatever I used to care about, whatever I once thought was important is dust. This is absolutely everything it’s cracked up to be. If there is a bigger, more ultimate adventure I’d love to know what it is because what I have with you I couldn’t have known how much I would love and be so overwhelmingly grateful for my role in our small corner of the world. Any and all the adversity it took to arrive at this life has been so well worth it.
I imagined this life, you see, from those other, challenging, seemingly far away places and times. I imagined a family, a most unique situation, one that honors things I effortlessly believe in, important building blocks for any dream, such as a love for and commitment to learning and pursuing our curiosity together in whatever shape it might take.
And, last but not least, I’m grateful I am wired so much like you, able to relate to many of the challenges you face and will face and overcome. I’m grateful for your step sister and brothers, all four of you kids and the influences you all have on each other. Marielle, my love, she is an extraordinary woman. She’s made this silly man’s life complete and satisfying on more levels than I can count. There are no words to transmit what that means but I promise you I will keep trying.
There’s also no way Marielle and I could have known how our little blended family would make such a beautiful, complementary combination of all those things we value and love. I’m so grateful to her for being such a singularly positive and uniquely loving inspiration to all of us to realize a dream of building our wonderful life together with intention, thoughtfulness, and grace. I’m a better man, partner, friend, husband, and daddy because of her. She loves you like her own and understands well how we are so connected, what we’ve been through, and where we are headed.
This life, well, it’s tough to put into words all that has led to this moment. Sometimes the gratitude I feel overwhelms me with emotion at unexpected moments. Joy has a funny way of looking like something else.
One day I will no doubt fruitlessly try explaining it to you, knowing full well you will merely have to stumble around in the world until you discover it on your own, in your own time, as I did and as I still continue to do. I will likely blather on saying things like, “Sweet pal, life is what you make it. Thoughts become things. Choose only the best ones.”
I love you, Daschel. I’m so proud of you and am so very grateful to be your daddy on Fathers’ Day and on any day.
</end self-indulgent letter to a little boy to be read some day in the future>