It’s such a cliché to say, “I can’t believe you are already 3 years old”. It’s amazing to me how life can be boring and routine and pass so quickly, and that alternatively life can also feel full and eventful and do the same thing. As I look back on this year with you the beautiful moments you have brought to my life seem innumerable and in that sea of amazingness I struggle to think of memories that really stand out. Somehow it’s the totality of the change that strikes me this year. Maybe it’s because there doesn’t seem to be as many “firsts”. Well that’s not strictly true, but they seem different than ones in your first couple years. It’s more like this year is about things you could already sort of do, but now you can do infinitely better. It has been still a joy, of course, to watch you get so much stronger and agile, but it doesn’t stand out as strong in my heart. However, maybe the problem is that your firsts this year are much more related to your cognitive abilities and it’s hard to pick out the exact moment it happened, because it seems to get stronger so incrementally, yet the moment when I really become cognitively aware of your development seems sudden. For instance, this year you started making connections between objects and shapes and likened them to things you already knew. Like seeing 4 upside-down plastic cups next to each other reminded you of Lego, a song that wasn’t Indian but had Indian drums made you connect it to Indian music, having intention in what you draw beyond just the fascination of making marks on paper. The best part of this year is how your imagination has taken off. The scenes you play out with your toys, doing different voices and scenarios. I think I could listen to you play like that all day. You also became completely bilingual this year. Your English was first and we were worried about how much Polish you would be able to speak. But eventually we could tell that you were recognizing the differences between the languages and who spoke them. Then, what seemed out of the blue, you started speaking Polish while your great grandmother was here, and now I think you speak Polish better than an English. It is truly a marvel for me to see because I find the grammar rules so hard to learn, and you simply show why children are superior at learning languages. This past year has in many ways been the story of your voice, and your talking fills the air like music.
Ultimately what stands out the most is how much you’ve become a person. Gone is this little human I loved on what just felt like a biological level, but I feel like I actually know you as a person now. Your personality shines, and I can begin to define you as having certain personality traits. And I think you can do the same for me. You also know me, and what I’m like. We are father and son, sure, but we are also people learning about each other and growing together, and I love that. So what is that personality that you are developing? Well you are sweet and loving. You are kind and you like to share. You show concern for others including the cats. You don’t throw tantrums, and you don’t get mad when other kids take your toys. You just sort of stand there a bit stunned and wonder what is wrong with them. What’s most amazing about you is the humor you’ve developed. You love to make people laugh, and you do a pretty good job of jokes for a kid your age. A large part of you seems to be built on silliness. Almost too much sometimes, because you can get unfocused from the task at hand. It’s hard for us to not laugh sometimes, even though you are misbehaving, because we know a laugh from us only encourages you to carry on with your silliness! But if being too silly is the worst trait you have as a toddler than I think we are pretty lucky.
To share with you an example of your silliness you decided one day to call my lips, pimples. You touch my lips and say “I likes your pimples”, and then I touch your lips back or tickle your ribs and say “I like your pimples”. You respond back saying, “No, I like yours pimples!” This goes on for far longer than it should. It’s complete nonsense. But it’s also sweet because you started playing it I think just because you liked touching my lips. You often just put your fingers on my lips when you come into our bed and are still sleepy, or just before you fall asleep at night. As a father we generally don’t get those kind of attachments with a breastfeeding mother to choose from. I don’t know, there is just something deeply personal when there is just some simple thing about you that brings such comfort to another human being.
Also I am really happy that you like Mr. Bean so much. It will make me feel less guilty about indoctrinating you into British comedies. Pretty much the only way I am freely willing to indoctrinate you. 🙂
Part of the reason why I want to write you these letters is to also let you know who I am at this time in my life. Of course as much I feel you are getting to know me, there is so much more to go. This year has been a tough one for a lot of people, but mostly because of how it has ended. Poland has become extremely restrictive, full of prejudice, religious fervor, and heavy nationalism. It is one of many countries that have and may go that direction yet. But Poland is your mother’s country and where she still has friends and family. So it’s personal. And the country we live in has taken it’s turn in that direction as well. As hard it is to let greed win, it is much harder to accept that the world seems like it’s about to get a lot unkinder. And as a species, we haven’t been the kindest bunch even in the best of times. This age of information and global activity, breeds a heightened level of awareness to all our species is capable of, and as a result quite a lot of fear. As I said, we aren’t always the kindest. I hope that this is all just a pull back on the elastic that propels us forward. Of course change happens slowly, so it may be a long pull back before we go forward again. As we are now able to look around this world even more than before, we are starting to realize that there is quite a bit of suffering and we haven’t been very good stewards of the planet that sustains us all. It’s a heavy burden to bear. People deal with it in different ways. Some better than others. I am not sure why this really is. Maybe it’s just the willingness to admit mistakes and try something else. Maybe ignorance really is just bliss. But I’ve always felt that at some level reality slaps you in the face no matter what. I’d always rather just address reality come to terms with it. Perhaps I’ve just had a kinder reality than others, so what do I know? The point is that your life may be a greater struggle than your parents had for most of their life. What I can tell you though is that whatever the future holds, I will always show you the light that is in this universe, the wonder in your world, and what’s best about humanity. I’m going to make sure that even when I’m not there, you will look out with your senses and know there is beauty there. Even if it is small, hiding, muted, or repressed, you will find a way to bring it to others, and have good and pure moments of joy. Even if they happen more sparsely than I have been fortunate enough to have in my life.
I suppose that parents must often question themselves in how they are doing as a parent. I know I certainly do. The truth is that I still feel like I have trouble relating to you. As you get older it is very aware how much you are watching, listening, and learning, and I feel like I should be teaching you more. Maybe I’ve just spent too much of my life talking to college students, that trying to explain things to a toddler feels hard. And often I just feel I’ve aged past the point of remembering how to access my own inner child. Your mother does not have that problem and I am so thankful that you have that amazing woman in your life. I just want you to know that I am trying and that at the very least I can say that you are getting no shortage of love and affection from me. I love the hugs, the kisses, the holding you on my lap, and the cuddles when you crawl into our bed in the middle of the night. By the way, maybe that’s the best part of you talking now is that you can say “I love you”. I suppose one could say that you are bound to say such things after hearing it so many times. But I can tell that you are also beginning to understand what love feels like and there is no dishonesty in your expression of love. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. There is a purity in it that I think we adults lose sight of sometimes. Not that the complexity of love isn’t wondrous as well, but sometimes I think we over think it, and let the fear of vulnerability override the freedom and joy our heart could be experiencing. And while I still have no idea how I would manage if something were to happen to you, it is a fearless love I have for you, because I know that whatever turns life may have, there is no value in holding back the love I feel for you.
These past 3 years of your life have been amazing for me. I wish I really had the words, but maybe there are just some things in life you have to experience and words simply hold no value. My greatest hope for you is that you get to love someone as much as I love you. Happy 3rd birthday my son. Thank you for making me feel lucky, even in 2016.