It’s a funny thing writing a letter to someone that you don’t even know yet (that is, the individuals that you will be when you’re old enough to read and understand this). And what’s more, when you do, the words will be coming from someone you don’t know (me, as I am right now), and attributed to someone who didn’t even write it (the person that I will have become as you read this). And, of course there is the further complication of having to write it in such a way to be interesting to an unknown audience in the vast infinity of cyberspace.
Well, my boys, assuming that I am expecting to impart some kind of fatherly wisdom as I write this, here is Life lesson number one: “When the woman that you love asks you to do something for her, no matter how far-fetched or unreasonable it is, the answer is always and instantly “Yes”.
Life lesson number two: “Nobody likes a whiner.” Or, to put it more positively: “You’ve got to love a challenge.” That is to say, that in spite of the caveats in the first lines of this communiqué, I am very excited to have an opportunity to speak to you from across the years.
So let’s put a date on when you are reading this, so that I have a rough idea of at least the demographic group whom I am addressing here. Let’s say that Sam, you are twenty; Nat, you are about to turn eighteen; and baby X (you haven’t arrived yet), you are coming up on fifteen. Assuming that you resemble me when I was your age(s), you will be probably be up for a good laugh. So here are some stories about each of you that you might enjoy.
Sam: One day about a year ago on a crisp fall day when you were four, we were out in the carport tidying up. At some point you tugged on my sleeve and I stopped. When I turned and looked down, you had a sly look on your face. “Daddy, do you want to see a magic trick?”
“Sure Sam, I’d love to.”
So, smiling in that sly way, you turned toward the garage wall. And started kicking. And I don’t mean tapping it with your toe. I mean just kicking the hell out of the garage for a good solid thirty seconds, until I stopped you and asked, “Sam, where’s the magic?”
You turned and kicked it a few more times. Then said, “See?”
So, flash forward to the future, if you and I sometimes have trouble understanding each other, I think that might have been the beginning. At any rate, I’m sure that your kicking skills will be a valuable asset when begin your career on the TFC soccer team or as the bouncer in a bar in the southern US. This faith is direct result of my faithful subscription to Life lesson number three, “Fear not the unknown and incomprehensible, it will work itself out eventually.”
Nat: I am not going to tell you a story. Nope, no stories. Not even the story about how as soon as you could walk you climbed the counter and started throwing glasses against the floor, or how you used to chomp on my nose to wake me up in the morning, or even about the time that you attacked that lady’s shins with your tricycle on Queen St. I don’t need to, because everyone knows that you are best described as “a good boy, kind of destructive.”
No stories, only a request. Using the futuristic advances in hypnosis that have been developed since I wrote this, I need you to speak to yourself. Have the hypnotist put you under such that you can travel back in time and communicate with your three year old psyche and ask it to please spare me the destructive swath that you are cutting through our house. Don’t worry, I’ll pay the guy (or maybe OHIP?) Should the procedure be a success, as a bonus, I’ll even throw in a gift of whiskey, car keys and Las Vegas roadmap on your sixteenth birthday. See what a cool dad I will be, if only you will allow me to survive these early years?
Baby X: it’s hard to come up with a story about you when you haven’t yet arrived. But no problem – I will simply approach the task making use of life lessons one through three, while temporarily discarding Life lesson number four: “Always tell the truth.”
Let’s start with the day that you are born, my perfect little girl, possessed of all of mommy’s stunning physical beauty and unearthly intelligence, and blessed with daddy’s ideal personality. Now fast forward to graduation day at Harvard. There you are: captain of the girls squash team and undefeated in the Ivy League, with top honors in your double major! On the one hand, you have a masters degree in neuro-environmnetal-mathematical engineering in aero-fluidic astrophysics and earth sciences, on the other, a doctorate in advanced multi-media presentation of philosophy of art and morality. My little girl was always so well rounded!
Flash forward again to the tears rolling down my cheeks as I stand at the foot of the Taj Mahal in India at your destination wedding. You are the blushing paradigm of modesty beneath your white veil as I hand you off to your husband and soul mate (president, CEO, and supreme religious leader of the new pan-American corporation/nation-state) – a kind, generous man whose only shortcoming was that he was castrated in a tragic philanthropy accident. No worries for children though: artificial insemination will grow you a bountiful family and maintain my little one’s purity and virginity for the rest of her years. Forgive me while I swoon for a moment.
Or, more likely, perhaps you are another boy who will put Nat forever in your debt for making his behaviour actually look good by way of comparison, as you cavort through your early childhood like a tiny pink tsunami of terror and psychological torment to your parents. Perhaps Nat will give you a sip of whiskey and a seat in his car bound for Las Vegas. He should – he will owe you!
Well then, I guess that having read this, you can gather that I’m not the best father out there. But not the worst either. I do try: what I lack in maturity, I try to make up for in energy. What I lack in patience, I try to compensate for with frenetic pace. What I lack in safety, I make up for in fun. What I lack in common sense, I replace with creativity. What I lack in tact, I… Well, you get the idea – after all, you had to live through it! As near as I can tell, you guys aren’t lacking for anything. You’re great the way you are.
Over the years, we will definitely have our differences (consult your memories for some of these). When we do, just remember Life lesson number five, learned from Mr. Loudon Wainwright III’s immortal folk song about father-son relationships: “The bigger the front, the bigger the back.” True: I complain about and holler at and cajole you guys with some regularity, but the fact is I didn’t have to choose to stay at home with you and pausing my career pursuits. It was a conscious choice and I have no regrets. It’s been tons of fun and a real learning experience. Probably wilder and crazier than Vegas (I’ve never been), and more intoxicating than whiskey (although I do feel hung over when you wake me up early in the morning!). And, like any good road trip, you guys are giving me one hell of a ride.
Written by Benjamin Hatcher, husband to Carol Chandran and father to Sam (5), Nat (almost 3), and baby X (8 months in utero).