To Jack, on Father’s Day

Dear Jack,

Today is Father’s Day.  Target, Hallmark and the ads on major TV networks tell us that we celebrate today by giving dads personalized golf balls, beer drinking accessories and cards with baseball bats on them.  These things say “Happy Father’s Day!” or “You’re a rad dad.”  Your dad’s into the beer, but doesn’t know anything about golf and only has “The Padres are ok, I guess,” to say about baseball.

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I never really understood the real message behind “celebrating” Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.  We were supposed to be extra nice to mom and dad on that day, give out cards and “free backrubs” coupons and still expect to be fed dinner, bathed and kissed goodnight like any other day.  After social media turned into a thing, celebrating Father’s Day turned into posting an old picture of our dad on Facebook, accompanied by a sweet but sad message about missing him.  I started to “get” Father’s Day then, but only really “got” these holidays after we had you.

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After and since you were born, Father’s Day has continued to morph and develop for our family.  Dad does his best, and his best is usually better than I could have ever hoped for.  No one is perfect, and these holidays aren’t about celebrating perfection.  Maybe they’re about celebrating wholeness.

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Becoming a parent is a significant shift in self identity and it isn’t a shift that takes place on just one profoundly moving day.  I think once you become a parent you’re constantly shifting from highs to lows, from left to right, shifting in two (or three…or four…) directions at once.  In the last two years with you, each of us has had good days and bad days.  Some days Dad and I hit the teamwork thing out of the park and on others he’s hugely unhelpful, or I’m extremely naggy.  Some days you wake up and fall asleep with a constant smile, and others you start the day by kicking me in the face while I lean down to gently wake you and end rolling over on the changing table and knocking my hand into a freshly removed poopy diaper.

But that is what we celebrate on Father’s Day.  We couldn’t have the extreme, life affirming highs without a few (really in the grand scheme of things relatively insignificant and definitely fleeting) lows.  Even before Dad came along, I dreamed about you.  My mom and dad were so wonderful, that having a baby was always what I wanted.  You were my biggest wish for a very very long time.

Then one day, in my junior year of high school on a Saturday marching band practice day, I walked into the band room and saw the back of Dad’s head through a practice room door.  He was drumming.  The stuff in the movies is all true – life slowed down for a few seconds and I was stopped in my tracks.  I knew who that was.

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This was our final baby-less meal together, the night before you were born.

Eleven years later, Dad came home and found a little pair of headphones and a note laying on our bed, announcing that you existed.  He read the note and almost missed the bed when he tried to sit down (in shock).

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Now we have you.  There was no way we could have prepared ourselves for the overwhelming love we feel for you.  You feel out of our league, better than we could have possibly imagined.  I couldn’t have you without Dad.  When you were born, Dad wept openly in the OR while he held you up to my face.  I said groggily – “I knew you would cry!”  Once or twice I’ve caught Dad leaning over your bed at night before he goes to sleep.  “I was just listening to him breathe,” he’ll tell me.  Dad helped give me you, but you have truly given me Dad.

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So I’m celebrating Father’s Day because Dad earned an important title that, when taken as a whole, has made my dreams come true.  Let’s give him a funny card, let’s ask him to make us pancakes breakfast and pizzas for dinner, and let’s get him nice beer.

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