Letter to my son on his first birthday
Before you came along, I was always looking ahead — charging forward. Now, I want to stop time. I think about it a lot. I’ll hold you and wish I could just stay in that moment, trying to remember every detail.
Here’s one of my favorite times of day: walking from my truck to the house after a long day of work. I know as soon as I open that door, I’m going to find you crawling on the floor. I’ll call out your name, and you’ll pause for a second before you smile and look over.
I don’t get my jacket or my laptop bag off before I pick you up. There’s dust and dog hair on your knees. Snot’s crusty around your nose, and your hair is hanging in your eyes. That’s my boy.
Your mom and I said we wouldn’t cut your hair until your first birthday. Your grandpa calls you a little hippie. You remind me of Kurt Cobain (you even have that unwashed thing going on with yogurt globs stuck in it).
Now that you’re here, time’s doing the opposite of what I want. It’s moving faster. Life felt crazy when it was just your mom and Claire and I. Now, with four of us, it’s like someone’s locked us on a speeding train. We’re hurtling forward. The scenery’s zipping by.
I can tell you’ve got the Warden genes. Claire could have fallen asleep at a concert when she was your age. Not you. You might be dead asleep. Then, I’ll bite into a potato chip three rooms away. Your eyes shoot open, and your hands curl into fists. I might as well have checked your temperature with an ice cold rectal thermometer.
Claire used to sleep 14 hours a stretch. On a really good night, you go eight (that’s with a belly full of formula and the sound machine pumping ocean waves into your room).
It’s taught me how different we are. We come out of the womb with a certain set of characteristics — some we can change, some we can’t.
There’s a lesson there. Don’t try to turn yourself into someone you weren’t meant to be.
Any day now, you’re going to walk. You surf across the furniture. You stand up in the tub. Here’s what you love:
• Matchbox cars
• Pulling Claire’s hair
• Pulling your own hair
• Riding anything with wheels
• Trying to touch yourself when I change your diaper
• Raspberries on your belly
• Flipping switches
• Playing with electrical outlets
• Covertly eating dog food
• Anything that fits in your mouth and is suitable for gnawing
• Splashing in the water (particularly toilet bowls that your sister forgot to flush)
Here’s what you hate:
• When daddy wears an ape mask without a shirt and beats his chest with his fists (I really thought you’d be amused)
• When Claire yanks toys out of your hand (happens about once an hour on the hour)
• The first few minutes after you see your grandpa (or anyone with a beard for that matter)
• Getting left in a room alone
• When I say goodbye to you at daycare (now, I try to sneak out while you’re distracted)
I know you’re going to talk soon. Your coos and goos and ahs are getting closer to forming words. I foresee epic arguments with Claire. I foresee myself dispensing fatherly advice. I foresee you ignoring everything I say until you’re in your thirties.
If I’m not around then, let me tell you this: “A person is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night and in between does what he wants to do.”
That’s Bob Dylan — Dylan who just won the Nobel prize and didn’t bother taking the call.
His advice sounds trite and obvious, but f*** it’s hard. Life conspires to make us do things we don’t want to do. It tricks us into thinking we want things we do not need.
We’re always looking outward, thinking about other people’s opinions. That’s the wrong place. We’ve got to look inside.
Jobs titles don’t impress me. Fancy cars don’t impress me. PhDs don’t impress me. What impresses me is someone who forms his own opinion. What impresses me is someone who doesn’t cave in to social pressures. What impresses me is someone who finds the time to help the people around him, someone who reflects on his day and thinks about what he can do better tomorrow; how he can close the gap between the life he leads, and the life he wants to have.
“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything,” Warren Buffett says.
Do the things that matter. Say no to all the other bullsh** our culture tries to push.
Here’s what matters to me: you, your sister and your mother. Sometimes, I think I don’t deserve this little life we’ve carved out, but I’m grateful for it everyday. Thank you, Percy, for coming into this world. You’re my little chicken nugget.
— Fredrick Marion
A former columnist and staff writer at the Palm Beach Post and Rocky Mount Telegram, Fredrick Marion now writes on napkins, blogs and sidewalks. He earned an English degree from Wright State University, and he’s hard at work on his first children’s novel with representation by The Bent Agency. He also writes a weekly email newsletter full of writing tips, which you can find at www.daytonlit.com. Sign up for his weekly emails.