It’s a little bit thrilling
anytime I write your name…
It’s all caught up in laughter
and pieces of a puzzle I haven't yet
put together and … what…
recklessness? It’s as if
something lives beneath it,
or inside of it… or nests
in the bowl of your name…
I don’t know… I don’t know, but
something moves when I write it…
when I start a letter to you…
something turns when I say it…
something with bones and breath
and a terrible hunger to fly.
Something that understands fire
can’t always be controlled.
Son, I will not quote God to tell you who you are, where you should be, and what you should wear. This power is not mine, I will not pretend to exercise it to control or liberate you.
I will not tell you to go back to the tool shed, the living room, the gym, or the front yard to play sports. You are free to find yourself in whatever room fits.
I will not staple the title “of the house” to your creation when I want you to be responsible. I will only teach you that responsibility is heavy, but any human can, will, and should carry it. I will teach you to carry it well.
I will not call you anything but your name when you fall. I will not ask you to stop crying or whining “like a girl” when you tell me it hurts. I will only ask you to remember what pain feels like. Remember what it takes to trip, to fall, and to hurt, and what it feels like to find a helping hand extended to you. I will teach you to sympathize with those who fall and to understand that hurting is human, you do not have to be angry at the ground for knocking you down, you do not have to push anyone down to stand up again.
I will not ask you to mow the lawn if you like to wash the dishes. You will learn that you can, and will, clean up after yourself. Your genetic make-up is not a free pass on life.
I will not apologize for the privileges that you will find at your doorstep when your voice begins to change, and your hair begins to plant itself on your face. But I will expect you to know a privilege from a right, and understand that your privilege must not stand taller than anyone else’s rights.
I will not ask you to aspire to marriage because I will not wait for institution “to discipline you”. Boys will not be “just boys” when they are reckless and inconsiderate.
I will not let you break the earth, and freeze the walls of your ribcage.
I will not remind you of how I created you, fed you, clothed you. They are not a debt you owe me, I did not choose to have the ability to bring you into life. But it is an ability I welcomed.
I will not forget to tell you about the woman who chose to help me see your face, the one who carried me when I could not move forward alone. Who will teach you what I cannot?
I will not tell you that you and your sisters are the same because you will not believe me.
Instead, I will give you paper and ask you to write. When you tell me you cannot write without a pen, I will give you one and take away the paper. We will do this until you learn to tell me that you cannot write without a pen and paper. That they are different but equally important.
I will teach you how to carry opportunity with one hand and open doors with the other. And if ever you fall and break your leg, I will remind you to take note of your fragility.
I will tell you to keep walking even when you feel it is physically impossible, and when you are well I will remind you of what it felt like to move forward on one foot. I will remind you that it may not be impossible, just unnecessarily difficult. I will remind you how you wished you had seen that hole that trips you before it broke your speed of progress in half.
I will teach you that it does not matter which leg bends first, or which takes the first step forward. It only matters that both can carry you towards your goals. It only matters that you are headed in the right direction. It only matters that you love yourself whole, that you understand how you are the world in and of yourself, and to respect yourself is to project respect.
Finally, I will not love you less for falling, for wearing dressy shoes instead of sneakers, or for knowing more about the kitchen than UEFA; and I should only hope that you can take my unconditional love and respect for your character and pass it on to your friend, your coworker, your wife, your daughter, and, of course, your son.