Your birthday was, obviously, nearly two weeks ago. You’ve been four for nearly two weeks.
Four years ago, you were still in the NICU.
Five years ago, I was still struggling with the fact that I wasn’t a father yet and there was no end in sight to that feeling.
In the past month, you’ve mostly settled in to living in New York. We’ve had a lot of changes, some of which happened after your birthday but will be in this letter anyway. We celebrated Christmas back in Indiana with your mom’s whole family. Your birthday too, actually. And then again back here in New York. In fact, you had so many different days that were used for presents that you’ve gotten confused about why you had some days WITHOUT presents.
It’s still a bit of a tough time for you. You’ve fought us on what you’re eating, when you’re eating, how fast or slow you’re eating; when bedtime is, what you’re wearing to bed, and what order bedtime tasks are done; what you want to wear, what you want to do, what you want to play. When it’s time to pick up toys for the night, you’re suddenly “sooooo tired” (that excuse doesn’t work but you haven’t figured that out yet) but we have to put you back into bed multiple times.
We’ve finally purchased our own house here in Syracuse, but we don’t live there yet because we have some reasonably minor renovations to complete first. We’ll be living very close to your new “best fwiend in da whole wide wuhld,” Lily. You’re extremely excited about this. We took you to see the empty house. You inspected it very solemnly and thoughtfully, asking for information about each room and clearly considering it, before finally declaring, “Good job.”
You are, without question, a chatterbox. You talk incessantly, to everyone, about anything. You have trouble listening sometimes (but then again, you are only four). You talk, and talk, and talk, and talk, and talk. And I remember my parents telling me that I was that way as a kid. I remember friends getting irritated with me for how much I talked. I know the feeling. Everything is exciting, and you’re learning so much so fast, and you’re sorting it all out in your head and you just want to share it with everyone! I hope and pray that I have the patience with you that you will need. It’s so easy for us, as adults, to forget about how magical the world is for you, and we forget to listen sometimes.
I’ve been doing a lot of soul-searching in the past few months. I’ve realized that a lot of what I do is because other people want me to do it. A lot more of what I do is because I think other people want me to do it. Some of what I do, I do for me, but I feel guilty because other people don’t want me to do it (or I think they don’t). Some of what I do, I do for me with no guilt at all.
A lot of people tell you to do what makes you happy, and they take that as a very short-term thing. They forget that sometimes doing what makes you happy right now can hurt later on in life. You have to think about the difference between happiness now and happiness in the long run. And I think what will make most people happy in the long run is simply being who they are. Being honest about it. Build up what you love instead of tearing down what you don’t, and you’ll find others who love the same thing.
It took me a long, long time to realize that when I’m honest and real and genuine — when I’m me — I can find people who love me for who I am, not just what I can do for them or how I fit their idea of what I’m supposed to be.
Right now, you’re very, very honest. You like things or you don’t. You are having fun or you’re not. You want to go places or you don’t. Eventually, you’ll learn to compromise more on your behaviors, because that’s a necessary part of growing up. Some times, conformity will be necessary, and that’s just the way it is.
But never give up on who you are. Never cover it up just because someone else doesn’t like it. It’s not up to them to decide who you are. It’s up to you.
Be who you are, my beautifully kind-hearted child. Be you.
My other piece of advice for this month is simple, I hope. I wrote it a few days ago, and the more I’ve thought about it, the more I want you to pay attention to it.
There is a difference between tolerance and acceptance.
There is a difference between acceptance and love.
Love one another.
I love you more than I ever knew was possible for a person to love. Your mother and I both do. You’re growing up to be such a wonderful young girl, and we love watching your kindness reach out to others.