Monday, December 28, 2009

Seh seh seh SEVENTEEN???

17 years ago yesterday, Kim and I, having just finished a 36 hour stint of breathing, pushing and swearing, welcomed Christopher into our lives. In fairness, Kim did all the pushing and swearing while I did my best at breathing (with some serious bad breath judging by the demand from Kim for me to chomp on a Tic Tac before I get back in her face for the breathing). And now, 17 years later, we look at our car driving, sushi eating, football playing, joke cracking, sleep loving son and can only begin to wonder just where those 17 years have gone. Chris is the second grader who amused the staff at St. Michael School when he reported that he had learned about John the Bastard in religion class. It was at that moment when we knew it was time to get his ass into the public school system. And it only got better in public school… We still have his journal where he proudly wrote in his 8 year old scratch that his goal for third grade was to be “average” and where, just days later, he wrote that he wanted to change his name to Ben because it was short and easy to spell. (No, I am not making this shit up.) Really??? He’s 17 now??? Is that him, looking me directly in the eye and NOT standing on a chair? Can’t be possible….

Can it be possible that it was 10 years ago when I wrote this letter to Chris? I guess it really was that long ago. I thought about this letter yesterday when we were celebrating Chris’ birthday by giving him a CD player for his car. I thought it might be a good time to drag it out of the cobwebs because it still has relevance today.

Your life to this point has been very busy, hasn’t it? For a few years now, your Saturdays have been filled with karate, soccer, baseball and skiing. Pretty soon, you will be suiting up for your first year of Pop Warner football. You tell me now that you want to play basketball next winter. Mom and I are very happy that you have so many interests. But there are times when we wonder if we are doing right by you. You will not understand this letter today, but I am writing it so that I will stay attuned to what is most important – that is, allowing you a chance to be a kid and making sure you have fun while playing your games.

It gives me great pride to watch you play your games with all the spirit and zest of a child. Nothing will ever shake the image of you running with all your heart and might to your new position at second base. I want to be sure to remember that this is supposed to be primarily about your smiles and secondarily about my pride.

I know that I bug you about doing things the “right” way, and for that I am sorry. I am sorry for yelling “two hands” every time you catch the ball with one hand. I am sorry for making you play one inning on a day when you did not want to play at all. I am sorry for bragging to everyone I know about how well you throw the ball when I should be telling everyone I know how happy you are to be throwing that ball. Most of all, I am sorry for wanting you to do well for the benefit of my ego.

As your father, I owe it to you to give you every chance to be a kid. And I owe it to you to let you make mistakes without worrying about how I will react. I will try my best to sit quietly on the sidelines and watch you try your best to have fun. But I also promise to stand and cheer when you are in the game and giving it your all. I promise to drive you to games for as long as you want to play. And I promise to stay home and hang out on days when you do not want to play. And if at any point you have just had enough of all this stuff, I promise to accept it, move on and go out for pizza to celebrate your free time.

All I ask from you is one favor: If I start to have difficulty keeping these promises, sit me down and remind me, “Dad, I’m a kid and I just like to play.”

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