Tonight I did something I’ve been meaning to do for years. I wrote a letter to my son. Yes. My son is 11. He lives in our house. I see him every day. I talk to him every day. But, I’m not sure he knows how much I adore him. That seems to get lost in translation somewhere between his ADHD mind and my mother’s heart. I want the best for him and believe it’s my duty to prepare him for the realities of the world, but that task is much tougher with a kid who is impulsive, inattentive, and sensitive. So, I thought that perhaps if I wrote him a letter then maybe he would believe that I care. Maybe it’s the writer in me that thinks that things said mean more when put into writing. There’s something about reading how someone feels that makes it more tangible, I guess. I never want to get too far in this life without putting something in writing to the people I love because you never know what might happen. You just never know.
So, when Steve, Joe, and Luke backed out of the driveway in my car, bound for Joe’s tutoring and Steve and Luke’s weekly father-son reading time at Starbucks, I let out a deep sigh. Then I walked to the kitchen, grabbed several pieces of wide-ruled notebook paper and a pen, and got to work. I knew this letter would not come easily. I mean, how do you relay to your child adequately the depth of your love for them? But, I want Joe to know that I understand how much he struggles and that in every one of his struggles I am right there with him. It breaks my heart to see how hard he tries and yet how for every step he makes forward he is still in someone else’s shadow. I can’t imagine how frustrating that is for him. He is the strongest person I know. And, I would not be the person I am today if it wasn’t for my experiences being his mother. Still, I can’t say all that to him. That’s more than he can take in at this point.
I finally decided to stick to basics. I told him that I know he thinks I’m mean and impatient. I get that. I am mean and impatient, although I am working at being less mean and impatient. I told him that I think he’s smart, loyal, gentle, kind, and an amazing big brother. I told him that I admire him for his ability to keep working even when things are incredibly difficult for him. I told him that he’s brave and that I am proud of him. I told him to be patient with himself because he’s doing a great job at being a good kid. I told him that I love him more than anything. I also told him that I would not sell him to the gypsies, sign away my parental rights, or drop him off at a boarding school or home for wayward boys, no matter what he thinks or how many times he asks me to.
The one gift I’ve gained from parenting is an appreciation of how hard it is. I’ve found that I am much less likely to judge other parents when I see them struggling with their children because I get it. Everything you do as a parent is another potential topic for the psychiatrist’s couch your child will undoubtedly be sitting on one day. Some days, I picture myself as the Steve Martin character in the movie, Parenthood, when he stops to imagine how badly he is screwing up his son, Kevin. In this reverie, his son is up in a bell tower shooting at people below because Steve Martin made him play second base. A bullet comes close to hitting Martin’s character and he yells, “Nice shot, son.” That’s me. I’m going to be there, cheering my son on as he tries to take out his college classmates because I screwed him up.
When Joe got home, he read the letter. (I bribed him. I told him he wouldn’t have to do his book report reading if he read my note instead.) After he finished reading it, he went directly to play Minecraft on his Mac. After a while, I came in to see how he was doing.
“I have no intention of selling you to the gypsies, you know. Even if you beg me,” I told him.
“I know. I read your letter,” was all he said.
“And?” I prompted.
“And, I liked it,” he said with a shy smile. Then, he voluntarily hugged me.
Maybe instead of shooting people from the bell tower he’ll be shooting friends with a paintball gun like Sheldon and Leonard on The Big Bang Theory? I could totally live with that.