To My Son
To My Son,
I don't know if you're ever going to read this, but I suppose at some point you'll have to pull the book down off my shelf. To set the record straight, you're only eleven years old and reading my book probably wouldn't go over well. I wanted to write you a letter tonight to help explain everything. Maybe you should write me a letter in return when you're an adult and put it in a book?
When you were born, I thought that, this time, I would know how to behave and act. I didn't have sisters so raising your sisters has been all about learning new things, but when you were born, I was pretty sure I knew what was coming. Nerf guns, action figures, card collecting, sports, and eventually girls. All of these things did happen, but so much more too.
When you were 5 years old, we began to notice that school wasn't going well anymore. You were at harvest daycare and you seemed to have lost the ability to control yourself. Screaming, crying, hitting, all became a standard procedure for you. Nina didn't know what to do and Mom didn't either. I tried more discipline but that didn't seem to help much. We hoped that it was just your school, but it turned out it was really more about you.
Kindergarten was the toughest year I think I've ever had and if I'm honest, that's when our relationship faltered. When you were little, we would go into the backyard and play ball and I loved it. I used to stay up and watch videos with you or play great music for you in the car. But by kindergarten I had to spend so much time punishing you. Stealing items from your sisters room, taking their money, emptying shelves at school, throwing chairs, threatening your sisters and only at six years old. I yelled and punished you so much, that I'm sure it's caused some of your more emotional behaviors. Before that year you were strong and just like everyone else your age. But after that year, it was pretty clear that the boy you had been was gone.
We finally had no choice but to put you in a school for special needs children so they could help diagnose you. It was like school but doctors taught you. Mom and I hated it. We hated taking you away from your friends and your class. We hated having to put you on a van super early in the morning and let someone who barely spoke english drive you all around town and to school. We were just out of options at that point.
Eventually, we discovered your three behavioral diagnosis and were able to bring you back to Saginaw. Luckily, there was an amazing special education counselor there that saw what a nice, kind hearted person you were when you could control your emotions and behaviors. She loved everything about you and we are forever thankful for her. She worked tirelessly to help you and help us as well. Giving us advise and keeping us in the loop about what was happening at school. She would text Mom information about certain teachers if they weren't following your 504. She is probably one of the greatest teachers I've ever worked with.
But even with her help, our relationship suffered. You lied, stole from everyone, hid knives and dangerous objects in your room with your sister. So before you were ready, we had to move the girls into one room and you into your own where you still are today, although, now there are other reasons why you and your sisters shouldn't share a bedroom.
I thought I was going to know how to raise a boy, but not you. I have felt more lost with you than anyone else and continue to feel that way sometimes. Perhaps, I'm supposed to feel that way. I've been told by many parents that we are all just making it up as we go for whatever circumstance arises. And that's true with you too. The only difference between a smart parent and a dumb parent is how fast they can think up a plan and then execute that plan. With two parents, it's even harder because once one parent makes a decision it needs to be communicated to the other parent at light speed or else you get a different answer from the other parent! I've told all three of you this before, but most of the time I'm just making decisions as I go.
So when it came to your behaviors, and how to best handle them, I chose anger. We can discuss if that was the best decision (spoiler probably not) but that's what I picked. Did I cause some of your more distressed behavior or was my anger a reaction to your behavior? We can discuss this forever and not find a suitable answer between us.
I miss you as a little boy with sticks outside our apartment playing on the steps in the sun. I miss you riding metal horses with giant spring bottoms, bouncing around on the playground. I miss not having to fight an entire school district to have those teachers treat you the way you should be treated. But you know what else I am? Proud.
I'm proud of the work you put in to everything you do. Karate, baseball, soccer, choir, drums, archery, shooting, carving, knitting, and more! You excel at everything you do which is such a rare talent. That doesn't mean you'll always be the best at everything, but you'll always be good. It's one of the reasons I've never let you play football. Well that and all the brain damage you'd incur.
I'm proud of how far you've come at school and how you and your oldest sister seem to be getting closer lately. I'm glad we can go to a hockey game together or out ot eat and have a wonderful time. Most of all, I'm still glad you like being around me. By the time I was your age, my father was starting to disappear more and more. There are several reasons for that too, but the point is that I seem to have lost a strong male role model at this point in my life. I promise I'm going to pay attention to you through your teenage years and beyond.
I want to talk about all the things my father never would. Let's talk about girls you like and how to treat them correctly. Let's discuss who you have crushes on and eventually, when you're old enough, who you are sleeping around with. Let's talk about sex and be open with each other about it. There's so much I want to say about so many different topics that I may never have enough time to share them all. I'm not your best friend, and I would never want to be, I'm your father. If you can't come to me, who can you go to?
Maybe it's fate that a physically disabled father should have a child who needs so much love and attention. Growing up being stared at and astrocized for nothing I could control is a life I didn't want for any of my kids, but at least I'll be here to guide you through it. The missed school dances, the lonely prom nights, and the parties you might not be invited too. I've been there. The girls that won't say yes to dates and the secret crushes that never become anything. I've been there too.
If you ever read this, and if I'm still on this plane of existence when you do, give me a hug ok? If I'm not here, sit under a tree, close your eyes and listen to the wind. That's me. Helping you grow from wherever I am.
I love you so much and I can't wait to see the man you're going to become.
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