Monday, July 20, 2009


I’ve got some friends who post monthly letters to their children. I have neither the skill nor the work ethic of these two, but I can at least muster one letter every year. And this would be the day to do it, my little guys turned three today… Dear Nate and Will:

It’s hard to believe that it’s been three years since the two of you were born. Back then, we were nervous first time parents who had no clue what they were doing and you were little five pound bundles of need who could cry and poop and not much else.
Now look at you. You are both turning into handsome young men before our very eyes. In many ways, you are both typical three year old boys: you love to run and jump and seem constantly to be in motion. But you both have also developed a deep love for books. It’s not uncommon for you to sleep with books in your arms you hope to read when you awake the next morning.

It’s that mix that makes you two fun and interesting. You’re tough, but not hard. This is the age where many little boys shave their heads and learn to scowl. They’ve already put on the mask of faux manhood and believe that being mean is what being grownup is all about.

Not you two. You both trot through life with wide smiles and a sense of wonder and curiosity about the world around you.

But you are tough. So tough it frightens your parents sometimes. Both of you brush off what look like serious spills off playground equipment with little notice of the stunned and frightened expressions of the people around. Sometimes you will run across a field towards each other at full speed, causing a collision that knocks the both of you to the ground. Then you laugh, get up and do it again.
I see more and more of myself in you every day… and I hope that’s not a bad thing. You’ve developed a serious love of music and smile broadly when you hear music you like. You’ve even taken to imitating orchestra conductors when you hear the right kind of music. While this is quite charming at home, it has caused a few disruptions in church.

The other day, we were watching an episode of the Muppet Show together. Danny Kay was performing a song called “Inchworm.” You stood near the TV and conducted the music, but stopped halfway through. You just stood transfixed as a particularly beautiful passage of the song played. When it ended, you looked back at me and you had this certain look on your face. I can’t describe it any other way than to say it was a look of pure joy, and you looked back at me just to be sure I had heard this wonderful thing, too.

At times I’m concerned that my children will inherit all my worst traits. That they’ll become grumpy and picky eaters and talk too much and become overly critical of things that really aren’t important. But Nate, if I can give you one gift in this world, let it be a love of music. It will help get you through many difficult times in your life and bring a special kind of joy even when times are good. When I looked into your eyes after you heard that song, I sensed that you were starting to understand that. This makes me more happy than I could ever explain in words.
You’ve also reached an age where you are starting to develop crushes on girls. This usually happens at the park, and the target is usually quite a bit older than you. (In all fairness, this can hardly be avoided. A sizable proportion of the females in the world are older than you, and many of the younger ones can’t even talk yet.) Your crushes often manifest themselves by you following the object of your affections around the park until she gets unhappy and leaves. Rest assured, Nate, you will eventually find girls who will reciprocate your ardor. Until then, try not to take it personally.

It feels almost pointless telling you anything about yourself because you have become expert in telling us yourself. A large percentage of your verbal communication with us consists of Twitter-like updates such as “Will fall down,” “Will hiding,” and “Will eat fruit snacks.” In the past few months, your verbal skills have grown by leaps and bounds. You take a lot of time describing the world around you, sometimes in English, sometimes in a language only you and Nate can understand.
You also take great pains to let your mom and I know how much you love us. Perhaps the most charming way you do this is by running towards one of us, then delivering a huge hug followed by an “ohhh.” It’s quite cute, although it seems inevitable that you will knock me or your mom over eventually with that trick.
You’ve also developed quite an independent streak, Will. You often seem intent on proving to me that you’re no longer a baby and can do things yourself. You now insist on opening the car door by yourself, putting the Velcro down on your own shoes, and even removing the tray from your highchair.

It all serves as an important reminder to me that, even though you are cute as a button, you deserve respect, too.
Nate and Will, this birthday is a bittersweet one for me. We’ve just finished celebrating with cake and presents and all the things you expect on a birthday. But on Tuesday night, I’ll be getting on a plane and heading off to the Faroe Islands. This is something that excites me to no end, but it means I will be away from you for almost two weeks.

That’s right, for the next 12 days there will be no screaming in the morning. No tantrums over who gets to open the screen door. No inadvertent kicks to my crotch. No diapers filled with the foulest poop imaginable. And I will miss it.

So while I am away, I will look at these pictures of you and think of the fun we will have when I come home. And until then, I will offer you the same birthday wish I offer every year: may you tolerate and even love the deeply imperfect world you have been brought into. May you find a place in this world where you can be happy. And may you have the courage to make this world a better place than those who have come before you have been able to manage.

I love you both so much.


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