This is you, Jon, at your second birthday party. You're waiting to demolish some cake...
Dear Jon –
I know it’s more common for Daddy to write about your sister, Ella, than you, and I hope that you don’t take offense to that. I do it for any number of reasons, most of which probably wouldn’t satisfy you in the slightest (I think the main one is she’s quite often hysterical), but today is your day, so I’m going to write about you. Today you are officially two years old, and I simply cannot believe it. I can’t believe you’re growing up.
Well, that’s not true. I can believe it, but I guess I’m just not prepared for it. I don’t want to accept the fact that one day you won’t be my small snuggle friend, or won’t have the softest skin I’ve ever felt, or won’t be the quietest but most strikingly intelligent toddler I’ve ever come across. I struggle with the fact that the you you have been all of your life is changing, but it shouldn’t; I’ve learned so much in the last two years.
When Mommy and I first found out that you were coming our way, I was scared. In fact, I believe I looked at the ultrasound tech and said, “Oh, crap.” Or something close. I truly wasn’t prepared for a son and the moment freaked me out. I know now that the fear was irrational, based entirely in my own insecurity, and had nothing to do with you whatsoever.
And I know this because you’ve become my little best friend.
I can’t tell you how much it lights up my soul to hear you exclaim, “Dad-dee!” everyday when I come through the door. Or how special it makes me feel when you round the corner, your little feet going like Fred Flintstone’s (Sidebar: it’s a really old cartoon Daddy used to watch where people pushed cars with their feet. One day, I’ll take you to a museum and show you an example of the primitive culture your daddy grew up in). Or how unbelievable it is to swing you up into my arms and cradle your face into my neck and feel your tiny fingers reach for the back of my head and rub my hair.
Maybe it was this way with Ella, too, but I don’t think so. There’s something special about you, dude, and I love you to pieces. Even when you get short-tempered, or when I get short-tempered, it doesn’t take long for me to see something in you that stirs up all of the love I have within me. Maybe it’s the bond between father and son; I know from experience that it borders on mysticism (your Poppy is a really good dad to me), so I can buy into the idea that somehow, someway, there’s just a connection we share that can never be duplicated with anyone else.
For instance, we celebrated your second birthday this weekend and you were a pill. You whined, cried, moaned, and flat out pitched an all-out hissy-fit for the first 30 minutes of the party. Then, as if a timer had gone off inside your head, you were non-stop fun. Watching you tear around the house, or drive your Thomas the Tank Engine up and down the driveway, or show off for your great-grandparents by pushing your new lawnmower (Note: a bubble lawnmower, not an actual one – we’re not that redneck) made the some of the most hellish pain I’ve ever known melt into the distance. Seeing you enjoy life gave me back one more piece of mine.
I’m writing this because I want you to know that I love you. I want you to know that I cherish our relationship and want nothing more than for you to grow up and be a good man. I don’t care if you’re successful by current standards; I don’t care if you’re valedictorian or captain of the team or the single greatest trumpet player in modern American Jazz. If you turn out to be those things, great – it will mean all the more because they will have been your vision for your life, and not one that I superimposed onto you. My father granted me that freedom, and I want you to know it too.
Be a good man, Jon, because in a world full of sorry, mediocre and great men, the good ones stand out. It takes people a hella long time to realize it, but it’s good men that make the world work. It’s good men who provide good homes and create good families. Sorry men and great men alike tend to think only of themselves and thereby rob everyone they claim to love. Good men put others first and thereby bless generations.
You’re only two and will probably never read this (and if you do, it really does mean the Internet is forever) but I wanted to break my routine (Daddy typically doesn’t blog on weekends) and sing a song of celebration over you, my third child and only son. Your oldest sister, Ruthanne, whom you don’t yet know about, broke my heart but showed me that I was capable of giving my heart completely away to my children. Your big sister, Ella, taught me to embrace who my kids were innately and to not worry about making them into something they were not. The girls taught me a lot.
But you have taught me to not be afraid, to embrace a definition of manhood that has long defined me yet defied tradition, and to pass it on to you as a gift. I hope that when you are old enough, you will one day be able to look back and say, “My dad may have had his faults, but not letting me be myself wasn’t one of them.” I hope you will always know, no matter where life takes you, that you will always, always, be my son and the recipient of all of my love. You will never be able to lose that.
Even if you choose to attend Georgia Tech.
I love you, Jonathan. And happy birthday, my friend.
All the best,