A Letter to My Son on His First Day of Kindergarten

Son –

When you were born, I kind of knew that there were going to be feelings and experiences and levels of exhaustion coming that I could not expect.  I expected to be surprised by the unexpected, if that makes any sense.  And that was all true, but there was one thing that stuck out to me the most as something I truly and really did not see coming.

It turns out, when you are holding a little baby in your arms, and when you are watching that little baby start to turn into a small person, you get an overwhelming feeling of wanting to protect that little creature.  In every way possible.  You obviously want to physically protect it – but you also want to protect it emotionally and psychologically.  Childhood innocence is real, and it is beautiful.  The first kid that takes that away from you – by making you feel self-conscious about anything, by laughing at you and hurting your feelings, by being cruel in a way that only kids can – will cause me to go hide in my room so that I don’t wring his scrawny little neck.

Your engagement with the world inspires me.  You want to know everything about everything.  You shy away from nothing.  You want to help when you can help.  You are quick to love and trust.  You dance like nobody is watching.  You are a remarkable and beautiful human being, and all I want to do is protect you from the world that I know is coming down the pike.

But I can’t do that.  I have to start letting the world in, a little at a time – for your sake.  What I have learned about parenthood is that once you moved from toddler to child, the rest of my life became a progressive exercise in letting you go.  I can’t protect you all of the time any more.  I can’t step in and stop a mean kid from saying mean things.  I can’t warn you that you’re about to make a bad choice, or even stop you from following through on that choice.  I have to turn you loose and let you learn those things for yourself.  That’s how you become a functional, independent, adult.

Obviously that’s a process – you aren’t on your own now, and will never be as long as I’m alive.  But your responsibility will grow and my involvement will shrink, starting today.  We will reach equilibrium sometime in your 20s if we’re lucky.  In the meantime, two things:

  1. I could not be more proud of you.  You are ready to start taking on the world, and no matter how scary it is for me or your Mommy, we want you to go take it on like a champ.  We think you can, and we think you will.
  2. You will never, ever be on your own. Know that I am here, and your Mom is here … no matter what.  There is nothing you can tell us, no mistake you can make, that will ever make us love you less than we do right now.  Ask me to take the wall with you – we’ll go take that wall.

Go get it, son.  We’re proud of you.  And we love you.

Daddy

First Day of Kindergarten – 2017