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Parenting: A Letter To My Son Tyler
A MOMENT OF REFLECTION
As I sit here I have just received word that my son won’t be able to come down for Christmas from his home up north. I am saddened, but I understand. He has a job sixty miles from here, and without a means of transportation, and because of his work hours, it is just not possible for us to spend the holidays together this year.
Memory is not one of my strong suits, so it is with hesitation that I state that I only remember one Christmas without my son with me. He is twenty-eight now, and as I dust off my gray matter I can think of only one year, when he was six, that he was not with me. That year his mother, who had just divorced me, had moved him down to Utah to be with her family. It was a very sad time for me as I recall.
Tyler was born on October 23, 1984, and my ex-wife and I adopted him when he was three days old. He has been my constant joy since that day, and a living, breathing reminder of all that is good in this world.
Shortly after that move to Utah, he and his mother returned to the Puget Sound Region, and shortly after that Tyler came to live with me. I raised him as a single parent for thirteen years, and he has remained nearby even after he left the nest and headed out on his own, as all children eventually do.
Being a single parent is not an easy gig! There are no instruction manuals that come with the job, and there are no fall-back contingencies when something goes wrong. There is no spouse to turn to for advice, and there are no do-overs when you make a mistake. You just plow ahead, stumbling and bumbling as you go, and you pray a lot that you don’t make a mistake that could scar your child for life. It is a time of great anxiety and yes, fear, and it is a time of unbridled joy and satisfaction when you somehow get things right.
It is, as Dan Fogelberg once stated, the chance of a lifetime in a lifetime of chance.
TWENTY-EIGHT YEARS OF THE BLIND LEADING THE BLIND
Man, I had no clue! I was raised by a pretty good pair of parents, but when the time came for me to display that which I had learned, I had no clue.
I’m crying now so bear with me. I made so many mistakes. I look back now and it’s amazing that my kid has grown into the man he has…..it’s as though God decided that no matter what I did, He was going to make sure that my son turned out okay.
The only thing I did absolutely correct was to love Tyler each and every day. From that first day, when he was three days old, to today, my son has known that he was completely and unconditionally loved.
Never underestimate the power of love! Never! In my case, love overcame bushels of insecurity. In my case, love overcame my alcoholism and my ego, my selfishness and my fear. Each and every time I doubted myself, love vanquished the doubt. Each and every time I took an unscheduled detour, love pointed me in the right direction. Each and every time it appeared I would not be able to get out of my own way, love pushed me aside and restored normalcy.
Never, as a parent, should you underestimate the power of love!
Since I won’t be able to spend this Christmas with my son, I wanted to write him a letter and tell him how much I love him.
If you would like, you can read it too.
A LETTER TO MY SON TYLER
I couldn’t take my eyes off of you, son, that first day we brought you home from the hospital. I was, quite literally, overcome with emotions that day. I kept looking down at your little face and I could feel the fear building in me. What if I screwed up? What if I wasn’t parent material? I mean, there are people like that, who simply should not be parents. What if I was one of them? We never really know, right, until that first moment of parenting occurs. What the hell was I doing? I could barely function as a human being, and suddenly I was in control of your life as well.
Despite the fear, and it was great indeed, there was also this feeling of wonder and awe. I was holding a human being who would depend upon me, and I was holding a human being who needed every ounce of love that I could muster. I was raised by a good man, your grandfather who you never knew, and now it was my turn….my privilege, to raise you to become a responsible and loving man.
And so our journey began. We floundered at times, and we learned the hard way many times, but we somehow made it through. There were times when my alcoholism required you to be the parent instead of the child, and that was incredibly unfair to you, and yet you never weakened in your love for me, and you were always my biggest and staunchest supporter.
You told me once that you would not be half the man you are today if it were not for me and my influence.
I cry as I write those words. Thank you!
We vacationed together, and we made traditions together. Our Thanksgivings up at Mt. Rainier, our road trips, our stupid jokes and our shared love of the Beatles, it all adds up to twenty-eight years of joy for me. We laughed together….we cried together….we sat with each other when we were ill, and we shared in our individual accomplishments and celebrated the victories.
Still today, after twenty-eight years, I am the first person you call when matters of life weigh you down, and that makes my heart soar with pride.
Yes, Tyler, I am proud of you! I know full well that there are times you are down on yourself. You do not feel you have accomplished anything with your life, that you have let me and others down, but my message to you is that I am proud of you.
How could you let me down when you have never intentionally hurt another human being? How could you let me down when your finest qualities are your love and compassion for others? How could you let me down when you walk your talk with dignity and character?
Tyler, it has been a privilege and an honor to be your parent. A man could not ask for a better son, and what I did to deserve you I do not know, but I am incredibly grateful. I smiled on that day in October of 1984, and I am still smiling today. I held you that first day and I feared and yet welcomed the future.
I have been a successful teacher, a writer, an avid outdoorsman, mountain climber, and baseball player. I have overcome odds that should have beaten me, and I have crawled out of a personal hell that should have killed me.
But you, Tyler, are my greatest accomplishment.
I love you son! Always have….always will! Thank you for being the son I dreamed about, and thank you for not letting me screw things up too badly. Merry Christmas to you, buddy! You are the best gift I have ever received.
2012 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)