When Insanity is Normal

I’ve started a new case for my volunteer work.  So I don’t repeat myself too much, you can read a previous post about what I do and what my observations have been as of about 2 years ago.  But this new case has made me realize something else.  I can’t name names but let me give you a taste of what’s going in the case.

A 24 year old woman had her kids removed from her because upon the birth of her last child, she and the newborn tested positive for cocaine.  Her partner also tested positive for cocaine.  The partner is the father of the youngest two, the oldest, who is 5 has a different biological father, who until recently hasn’t been involved because the mother actively tried to keep him out of her life when he remarried.  The father of the youngest two was reported as having sexually molested a 3 year old girl.  He claims he didn’t do it, but the child’s story was detailed enough that he is on record as a known perpetrator.  This father is 32, the mother 24, which is a bit of an age gap, given that their first child happened when she was only 22 and he was 30.  He has 3 other children of which he has lost parental rights to all 3.   There was evidence that often the oldest who is 5 was locked in a room with her 1 year old brother and was at times the primary caretaker of him.  Since her children have been removed from she and the father have continually tested positive for cocaine.  If they are unable to keep clean they will lose parental rights to their children.  Currently they both live in their car, and have no home.

The children upon being removed were originally placed with the maternal grandmother.  The story of her life involves her baby brother dying of SIDS when she was 5.  She has cleary had undiagnosed mental illnesses throughout most of her life from PTSD, to bi-polar, to clinical depression.  To give you a sense of the situation she has been recommended to receive mental health treatment from 9-2 pm…Monday through Friday.  Upon the death of her brother she began being extremely violent towards animals, and pushed her sister onto the driveway as her mother was backing out who then ended up running over her sister (luckily this only result in slight injury).  She has 4 children through 3 different fathers ranging from the age of 26, to the youngest being 12.  Her youngest daughter was actually a twin, but she was with an abusive partner while pregnant, killing one of the twins.  She believed that the birth of a daughter would soften this guy (who was also a cocaine user) but not surprisingly this did not happen.  Her oldest son has 3 children, her oldest daughter (the mother in my case) 3 children, her 18 year old daughter is pregnant.  Recently, the partner she has been with now for 10 years was accused of sexually molesting her 18 year old daughter since she was a young girl.  This turned out to be true, and this maternal grandmother apparently knew about it and didn’t do anything.  The maternal grandmother’s sister also hit her niece badly causing child services to remove the niece for a time from her sister’s home.  It would be too lengthy to give more details but this maternal grandmother has exposed her kids to some broken people, has moved back and forth from different states, has at times not had her own home, and has clearly suffered through some nightmarish experiences.

I know that most of my readers will read those last two paragraphs and be like “WTF!?”  Some of you might feel anger, some sadness, probably both.  Overall, if you’re like me you will recognize this as an insane situation in which can hardly connect to.  This is chaos, and my intuition is helpless as I observe all this because it is so foreign to me.  I cannot fathom how this is real, human life.  But what I’ve come to realize is that this is normal for them.  This is just how life is.  This is how life is for much of their family and friends as well.  You might say, how can a mother let her daughter be molested and not do anything about it?  The only answer I can come up with is that through generations of poverty that the tolerance for deeply troubling behaviors and people is high given that this all seems like par for the course.  And poverty is at the heart of this at the heart of this tale.  Now that’s not to say that there wasn’t a period of prosperity in the maternal grandmother’s life, but the people she imported into her life, because she grew up with no parent recognizing her mental illness, because the behaviors of her own parents seemed normal, has kept a level of dysfunction in the family that would break most of us if we had to tolerate it for more than a day.  I remember my first visit to the maternal grandmother’s home.  Two of her other grandchildren were there along with her son and daughter in law.  The place was a mess with laundry everywhere.  It was a small two bedroom trailer, in which the 3 grandchildren she was fostering, her 12 year old, and her and her partner lived.  I felt claustrophobic and wanted to leave and try to pretend that people didn’t have to live like that.  And that’s not to say that people don’t have it worse.  All I’m saying is that for so many families, all this is absolutely normal.  This shouldn’t be normal.  In talking to the maternal grandmother I actually found her to be fairly prescient, places importance on school and education, and seems to at least have good intentions for those in her care.  What’s not clear is that she necessarily always understand what good care actually means.  If anybody expects people to just reason their way out of the situation, theysimply don’t know what they’re talking about.

Thankfully at the last hearing a couple days ago.  The oldest daughter got moved to her biological father and his wife. Both seem like really good people.  The two youngest children have been placed with a foster family who seem really nice and nurturing.  They understand that re-unification with the parents can happen, but are also willing to be a permanent home should the parents not be able lose their addiction.  There is some stability there and there are all sorts of hardworking people trying to do what’s best for the children.  Children are innocent and born into these situations.  It’s easy to condemn the adults, but when you learn more about them you just realize that they were just like these children and born into impossible situations.  I do this work for the children, but my heart breaks for the adults as well.  Most of the time they just get judged by the rest of society and forgotten.  When the mother had her visitation reduced at the last court hearing and found out she wasn’t going to get any special time with her children at Christmas she was in tears.  Despite the fact that she isn’t capable of being the parent her children need, the pain in her voice, in her face, and the intensity of her sobs made it clear that what little love she had in her life was slipping away.  I am not saying this is an excuse for giving her her kids back, and I’m glad Pennsylvania always tries to give parents a path to get their kids back, but I can imagine the pain I would feel if the same was happening to me.  It still broke my heart.

I appreciate all the people who dedicate their lives to helping children and families in these situations, but it’s really just all not enough.  We have to do better.  We have to make these kinds of things priorities for our politicians and raise awareness of what poverty is really like.

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For those of you interested in volunteering for the organization I work for it is called CASA.  You can check out the national website, but you’d have to see if they exist in your county if you wanted to volunteer.  But if you just want to donate to them some time that also helps.  There may be other service providers that help children in your area as well that could use your support.

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Discussion: Innocence and Knowledge

Unexpectedly, I am finding one of the hardest parts as a parent is to decide when should I tell the truth about the realities of the world.  I see the innocence and joy in life my son has, and it breaks my heart to tell him anything that speaks to the suffering that takes in this world.  There is a part of me that wants to preserve that innocence for as long as possible, and yet there is also part of me that wants to prepare him so he has the courage to face it.  I think overall I lean towards the former, because who am I to destroy such unadulterated joy in life?  Pain will find us all, and when it happens I’ll be there.  There is no rush.

But last night I started thinking, why can’t we all be more childlike and experience that joy?  What really causes us to “lose our innocence”.  I don’t think it’s death in of itself.  I don’t think sadness in of itself is what prevents us from experiencing a lot more bliss.

In trying to answer this question about loss of innocence, I started to think what a strange story the Garden of Eden is in Genesis.  The fact that eating from the tree of knowledge is what is referred to as the “fall of man”, the end of paradise (and innocence).  I don’t think knowledge as a whole is a problem.  For the most part knowledge makes me less fearful, less confused, and more likely to course correct in my life.  Life of course can’t be 100% bliss, but I imagined a world in which the only sadness we would experience would be when someone  we love died of natural causes, or natural disasters.  We might experience pain through breakups or moving away from home.  It is a dynamic world and there is an impermanence to all things.  I think such a world would be a more blissful experience, much more child-like.  What really causes us to lose our innocence is finding out the horrible things we do to each other.  That is a weight to bear that changes you forever; for which there is no going back.  If any biblical story in Genesis is going to represent the fall of man it should be when Cain kills his brother in anger (albeit anger due to God’s dissatisfaction with a vegan meal).  Anyway, I don’t really intend to get into a discussion about the Bible, only that as a parent the story struck as very odd even if I believed it was true.

For as long as I’ve been aware of the larger world that we live in, the only things that really break my spirit are is the harm that humans cause each other.  I’ve never sobbed and felt the world was a horrible place because someone died in a flood or of a heart attack.  I am curious as to what other people think about innocence and the loss thereof.  Could we be living in greater bliss than we are?  What does it mean to you “Loss of innocence”?  If you are a parent have you cried tears of happiness at the purity of your child’s joy, and have you also wept when you’ve watched them realized the horrors people commit against each other?  Any thoughts you might have on this topic are welcome.

Discussion: Progress and Coddling

I was listening to a podcast this morning where Jonathan Haidt was interviewed.  He’s a very interesting guy and I recommend checking out some of his work, but he was there to talk about his new book that he co-authored called The Coddling of America.  It is something that is commonly talking about as a university professor, and of course it is a pretty mainstream discussion as well.  Helicopter parenting and the hand-holding that still takes place even as they enter college is somewhat alarming.  He argues that the changes in attitudes of university students on campus started around 2013 and so his discussion isn’t about millennials but rather about iGen or GenZ.  He talks about the fact that we have this generation that is raised where an adult is constantly around.  Also the constant testing and homework means kids don’t play enough and when they do play it is always under adult supervision.  Kids don’t learn conflict resolution strategies when an adult is always a mediator.  There was far more detail that he gave but what primarily caught my attention is his explanation of why this is.  I mean if these young people are actually having moral panics and creating obstacles in their life that don’t actually exist, it is the fault of the parents and how they are raised.  So he asks the question, why are we pre-disposed as parents to coddling?

He talks about the progress paradox.  The basic idea is that what progress has done is made us all a lot safer, and thus we begin to worry about low probability risks.  Things we wouldn’t have paid much attention to before but now do simply because we don’t have to worry about kids dying from small pox.  Progress means we also aren’t having as many kids, as education and access to birth control has increased for all people.  This progress means we are more worried about the few kids we do have.  Progress has also led to increased leisure time which gives us more time to spend with our kids and watch over them.  We also are more aware of child development issues and are more apt to get them involved in structured activities over free play.  All of this, Haidt claims, explains why we have increased levels of moral panics on university campuses, why there safe spaces, trigger warnings, and microaggressions.  (Interestingly Haidt says that removing yourself from triggers if you’ve experienced trauma is the exact opposite of what you should do if you want to heal from trauma.  In cognitive based therapy which has been shown to be the most effective in helping people recover from traumatic events, it is recommended that one have graduated exposure to triggers rather than removing yourself from them.)

It seems a weird byproduct of a safer world, but from the discussion it seems that what we are doing is inventing or exaggerating fears because we don’t have as many as we used to.  So I thought I would ask some questions for purposes of discussion. Does this hypothesis seem reasonable and fit what you’ve observed in society?  What sort of shift would you like to see happen, and how do we go about making that change?  Are we all just old fuddy duddys who don’t get the younger generation?

To My Son: Year 4

Dear Son,

Since I decided to start doing the letter to you, it’s funny how I start thinking about all year as I note things I want to say.  But you go through so many changes that some new always inspires me to say more about it, that by the time I get to writing, I find it hard to focus on any one thing.   Ultimately this year’s letter is getting a partial eclipse from a new brother on the way.  But don’t get upset that your brother is already sharing the spotlight before even arriving, I’ll discuss more about this later.

There is no question that as each year passes I simply love you more.  As your personality evolves, as you start to develop your own identity, you simply are no longer someone I just love because you are my son, but because of the qualities you possess as an individual.  Love is a beautiful duality now.  My love for you both defies reason and is because of reasons.  It’s a wonderful place to be.  You continue to be sweet, silly, kind, and inquisitive.  I love the questions you ask now.  You often use the phrase “in this world”.  I am not sure you really understand how big it is, but I like the fact that you have started to think about that bigger picture.  It is also amazing how happy it makes me to see you be able to do things yourself.  A month ago, you went into a public restroom all by yourself and didn’t want me in there.  The other day you warmed up a waffle in the microwave all by yourself.  Your firsts have always made me happy, but as you grow and these things become more complex it brings not only joy, but even a sense of peace that you are a little closer to surviving on your own.  I suppose there will come a day that I will miss you being more dependent on us, but in the end parenting is to teach you to become more and more self-sufficient. I guess it just makes me feel satisfied as a parent to see these accomplishments even if they are trivial in the big picture.  It’s honestly why I am loving fatherhood so much, because of how much joy you bring to things that I previously thought of as trivial, if I thought of them at all!

You are also developing a strong will.  These last couple of months you’ve been getting a bit more angry when you don’t get your way and being more defiant.  Given how wonderful your disposition is in general, this is sometimes hard to take, but I sense this is just the beginning of a battle of wills.  But I just want you to know that we think, all the time, about the why you need to listen to us, not just that you listen to us, and so even though it breaks our hearts to make you upset at us, we know we are doing the right thing.  I know you have to test your boundaries, and I hope you keep doing that in life, because to go anywhere in life, you need to cross a few boundaries, if not many.

Your love of dinosaurs continues, and you don’t just love dinosaurs but know their names and things about them.  You’ve also show an interest in crystals, and plants.  You seem to have a very steady hand for using scissors and decorating cookies.  I don’t know what it all adds to but you have officially said you want to be a geologist because you want to dig up dinosaur bones and learn more about crystals.  As I look back on this year, all I can say is that I am excited to see you grow more as a person.  I don’t know how much you can project forward from the person somebody is when they are 3 or 4 into adulthood, but I feel like you are always somebody who is going to make me proud.

You’ve also become more fearful to the latter end of this year.  You say, “I’m not scared of anything, I’m just scared”.  You want us to go with you upstairs at night, stand guard of the bathroom door, hold your hand.  It’s natural I suppose.  It’s healthy to have a bit of fear, but it sometimes feels hard to know that you’ve become worried about harm coming to you, even though you’ve not experienced any real harm.    I guess it’s just part of your developing emotions, and also because the love you feel is stronger and deeper than before, loss must weigh on you greater than before.  I wish I could explain to you that fear is healthy, and that conquering your fears is a great feeling, but ultimately something nobody else can do for you.  In time you will sort out which things are worth fearing, but for now, I am happy to hold your hand.

There is an asymmetry of course to our relationship right now, in that I have the advantage of knowing almost everything about you, and having a decent chance of remembering much of it, but you do not.  Of course, I can tell that in this last year you are understanding more about what kind of person I am as well, the fact remains is that there is so much about my life that you do not yet know.  There is much about the world that you are not aware.  This year has been a tough year.  We live in one of the most powerful countries on the planet, and right now it is being run by a terrible human being.  The government at large is generally void of compassion, and everything I and your mother stand for. Times feel quite uncertain, and I’ve been more worried and down about the world than I’ve been in awhile.  I hope that things are much better by the time you are old enough to read this letter, but life may have bigger changes than I or your mother can imagine right now.   You will notice that as you get older and more aware of the world, that there are simply more bad things to know about.  You try to balance this out with the good, but it can be a struggle.  I know intellectually that all the goodness that humans have isn’t being talked about, and you just mostly are going to hear bad news, but sometimes knowledge can’t override your emotions.  Coupled with the fact that history teaches us countries do fall, and life gets significantly worse, there is a shadow on the future that I find hard to shake.  Suffice to say there have been times when I’ve let you watch a bit too much TV just so that I could sit next to you or cuddle with you on the sofa.  If a daddy’s arms make you feel safe, your touch makes me feel peaceful and lets me forget about the world for a while.

And so, in this next year, life is going to become very different for you as your brother comes into being.  Once again, the difference between what I know and what I feel clashes.  When we first thought about having another kid, it was our joy of being a parent to you that wanted us to multiply that joy by having another.  And yet as your mother’s due date approaches I find myself feeling a little sad in a way.  You have been my world for 4 years and now there will be another child to pay attention to as well, and I will no longer be able to give you completely undivided attention.  I don’t know how much other parents experience this, but all I can think about right now is what I’ll be losing, and not what will be gained.  It’s hard for me to imagine that there will be more than one child to love.  And while I know my love for you won’t diminish, the fact remains that there will just be less of me available to you.  At the same time, I know that your mom will have less time for you too with a new baby, and that we might possibly grow even closer now because you will not be able to rely on your mom quite as much, especially while your brother is very small.  And then part of me also feels bad that I don’t feel the same excitement for your brother as I felt for you, and that every first your brother does, will be something you’ve already done and wonder if it could feel as special as it is with you.  I’m probably overthinking it all.  There will be lots of love in this house and if my joy is doubled come April, I will truly be a fortunate man.  I also know for certain you will be a wonderful brother even if at times it will be frustrating to have to share attention.  I know your brother will come into the world a luckier baby than you, simply because he will have 3 people to love and care for him as he grows instead of just two.

Thank you for another wonderful year son.  You bring me more laughter and joy than I can describe. Happy Birthday!  I love you so much!

A Hero Rises

They say coincidences happen all the time.  Non-random acts, happening at the same time.  Such events amuse us, and sometimes amaze us.  So much so that we attribute meaning to these occurrences.  But sometimes these events create something unexpected.  Something that no person could have expected even if they were to expect coincidences to happen.  There is, at times, an alignment of coincidences so unique, so bizarre, that they defy natural explanation.  What should we expect from the following ingredients?

  1. A mother working with ancient DNA of extinct dinosaurs on the day of her ovulation.
  2. A careless lab assistant in a hospital who let a bit of a virus escape which activates previously inactive DNA.
  3. An unsuspecting nurse who picked up this virus while passing the lab assistant in the hall on her way to a birth.
  4. A solar eclipse.
  5. A sudden increase in the cosmic radiation from space due to an unknown alien presence.

And then a child is born.  A strange growth appears on his back, vestigial tail, and big feet with hardened claw like toenails.  The doctors and nurses are horrified and aghast at what they see. The mother, however, is determined to love her child, with that inspirational, unconditional love we all hope to have in our lives.

The growth on his back turns into a dorsal fin, his tail grows quickly and develops spikes.  His feet become weapons, and their large size and sharp claws also allows him to move swiftly over uneven terrain.

The child’s heart is still human, and like all humans full of dreams and passions.  In this case, for construction.  At the age of 3 he dons the hat that would define him for his life as he becomes:

DINOSAUR SHARK CONSTRUCTION MAN!!

Capable of building on land or water, and with predatory instincts he would become the wealthiest construction contractor in the world.  When he isn’t building, he fights crime on any Earth surface with lightning fast swimming and running speeds no human can accomplish.  Dinosaur Shark Construction Man could have become a menace if not for a loving mother, who Dinosaur Shark Construction Man still turns to in dark times for advice.

If you see Dinosaur Shark Construction Man, he is a friend, you don’t need to worry.  Unless you’re a criminal…then BE VERY AFRAID!!

To My Son: Year 3

Dear Son,

1470670647167It’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.

img-20160612-wa0000Ultimately 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. 🙂

1456361504503Part 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.

1475702319255I 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.

img_20160512_114307These 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.

Love,
Your Father

Mango

IMG_20160401_191926 (1)I’ve loved mangoes ever since I can remember.  For me they are by far the tastiest fruit out there.  Love probably isn’t the right word, but it’s the best I can do.  I remember when I was young boy, my dad would cut up fruit for us to eat on Sunday mornings, and it was a real treat when mangoes would be in season.  He would spend a lot of time cutting, and end up eating little.  Very often I would eat an entire big mango in a sitting, and as the last piece was given to me I would express some faux-guilt about eating it all and my dad would look at me and say “don’t worry son, I’ve eaten so many mangoes in my life that you could never catch up to me anyway” and happily give me the last piece.  He did grow up in India and I am sure he did have a lot of mangoes.  Maybe to him it was like an apple.  But I don’t know, if I had mangoes as readily available as apples I don’t think I would crave them any less.  As I got into my teens, still every bit a mango fiend, and thought about someday sharing mangoes with my child I questioned my ability to be so generous.  I mean sure I’d share, but give all of it to him?  That’s not possible.

So here I am a parent and mangoes are in season and my son just loves them.  And I am happy to say I know exactly how my dad must have felt.  It makes me so happy to see that joy of being able to taste sweet, juicy, and wonderful fruit.  I cut away, and feed him as many slices as he wants.  I feel grateful that I am able to give him his heart’s desire in the form of fruit (knowing that such fruit would be a luxury for many families) and I even think to myself how many mangoes I’ve had in my life, and maybe it’s not as many as my dad, but I’m happy to let my son try and catch up.  His joy is so much better than a mango.

IMG_20160513_093359It’s easy to get caught up in giving our kid the things we didn’t have when we were children, but thus far it seems a far more spiritually fulfilling experience to share with my son the things I did have that brought me joy, because I know what it feels like, and I can connect with him in a way that I couldn’t by simply giving him something I didn’t have.  And if we feel positive about the people we are now, maybe those things you missed out on aren’t quite as important in the end.