Message to My Boys

Who is this man that the world says you are supposed to call dad?

I am aware that the measure of me has been decided and defined by time and your mother. How can it not be? As it is not time for me now to try and state my case (it’s much too late for that), it is a good time that I at least try and prevent you from walking down the same path as you march toward fatherhood and manhood.

I, like you, did not grow up with a full-time father or father figure for that matter. My ability to make sound judgements as a man were based on my limited knowledge which made me approach life from a trial-by-fire method. There were men around to be sure but I was the last thing on their minds unless I stood in the way of their conquests. Also like you, manhood was shaped and defined by women. Unfortunately, it was not too bright a picture, nothing to aspire to.

I grew up watching shows like “Leave It to Beaver”, “The Brady Bunch”, “The Cosby Show”, and even “Good Times”. All of these shows tried to depict what a father was supposed to be but for some reason, I couldn’t make it work.

I fondly remember the vision I had of us, father and son, filled with adventure, ball games, me teaching you how to hit or throw something, or how to excel at organized fun. I would marvel at what the future held for us. But, as you know, none of it happened. I didn’t quite turn out to be the man that you needed nor the man I envisioned. What happened? Life! I know it doesn’t explain much but life happens whether you are prepared for it or not and I was ill-prepared.

Today, I am the sum total of all my thoughts from the moment that you were born. Some would say that I totally screwed us up. I have to admit that there was a time that I would wholly agree with them. It seemed as if I could not make a proper choice. It seemed as if every choice I made led me further and further away from the vision I had of us. Now standing in place of a wonderful relationship is a chasm. One I know not how to traverse.

I cannot bounce you on my knee, teach you how to walk, or boast proudly to the world that you uttered your first word. I can’t teach you how to ride a bike, rollerblade, and with my history of disappointing women, you should quickly run the other way if I offered relationship advice.

With all of my shortcomings, son, I do have some wisdom that I can pass on and it starts with this – Be a different man than I was. Don’t allow the bitterness of not having me around shape your life only to realize that at some point you have the power to change it. Don’t end up writing a letter to your children like this one when you could have easily stayed in touch. Don’t allow your ego and pride to dictate how you will react to the slings and arrows of failed ideas aimed at you. Don’t allow your inability to be a caveman (bring home the meat) to destroy your relationship with those you love because your fragile ego was bruised and you assume that the world would see your flaws. Don’t allow your past hurts to shape your future success.

The measure of the man you choose to be is determined by you. As much love and compassion I have for you now did not just appear. It’s always been here. As time moved on and I continued to try and slay that imaginary dragon, I lost touch. There were too many times to count how often I wanted to pick up the phone and call you to tell you that I was proud of you and loved you dearly but was more afraid of hearing the disappointment and disdain in your voice. I was afraid to hear just how far you’ve made it without me or you giving me a taste of my own medicine by being distant. And, I would deserve it.

Paradoxically, I was never the man you thought I was or the hero you needed me to be as child, but, neither am I the heal or villain you may need me to be to shape your opinion of me. The truth of the matter is, although we may know about one another we don't know each other at all.

As I now stand on the side of life the world calls successful, my choices of what I thought was important in the past lay before me. By chasing the proverbial rabbit down the hole (success), I have lost your respect, your love, your admiration, and a life-long bond. I have truly gained the world at an insurmountable cost.

Here I stand on the other side of the chasm. I still have a breath of life flowing through me which is now the perfect time to write this to you. I love you guys and I want you to have great lives. I cannot change the past but I can be different now and reach out to you. I am willing to take on what animosity you may have towards me and in whatever capacity you need. I will simply show up and be present. My only expectation is that you learn from my limited choices, take your place in this world, and be different.


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