9 years ago today you were born. Not too big, not too small, lots of hair and freakishly long fingers. I loved to kiss those fingers.
Before you were born, your Aunties and I tried very hard to come up with names that reflected current events, and at the time the Calgary Flames were in the Stanley Cup playoffs. The legendary "Red Mile" was born (I give you permission to google it when you're 16) and babies all over Alberta were being named Mikka, Jerome, even Iggy. The best we came up with was "stick" and "puck". So the nurses who doted over you and your blonde tipped hair at the hospital called you "Stick" and your Aunties and I will never forget the tiny little Calgary Flames onesie given to you by a kind home nurse helping me learn how to not kill this tiny person entrusting me (still a teenager myself) with their life - the rest of their life.
Turning 9 isn't just about remembering you as a baby. You are halfway to being out of our care, out of our home and on your own. I wanted to write you a letter so you could read a few things I believe while you still believe that I may know something, because soon I will be background noise (but believe me, I will be VERY LOUD BACKGROUND NOISE).
Here are a few things I would like you to prepare yourself for that will come up in the next few years:
You already know about sharing, and playing fair, and being nice but over the next few years things will change. You will have new friends, old friends, attractive friends, "ugly" friends, friends that succeed and friends that seem to fail. Some friends will "get" you, and some friends won't. Some will support you, and some won't. Some will be your friend on Monday and tape mean notes to your back Wednesday. You can't control what or who your friends are or do; you can only BE the kind of friend you want.
Trust me when I say you want to be: supportive, honest, kind, loyal, hardworking and generous. You are already those things, but for some reason it gets harder to be those things, and sometimes it seems that it's the bad boys who are actually getting the friends that you want. Even though those qualities may not get you hundreds of friends, I promise you will have the friends that matter.
It seems crazy to me that a 9 year old needs to prepare himself for "love", but the truth is, you do. There are few things that have plagued me more than the pursuit of what I thought was true love, and here are a few things I had to learn.
- Don't mistake a fluttery feeling as love.
- Don't forget that the best love is the love you'll feel and receive from someone who is that good friend I mentioned before.
- You'll fall in and out of love 1000 times before you find the one you keep forever, so treat every one of those hearts you may break with dignity and respect. This is a very hard promise to keep, but if you do, you will be a better man for it.
- Remember when someone breaks your heart that you are learning a lesson. Time will take the edge off the pain, and you will love someone more than the person who hurt you.
- Please remember that sometimes you're not going to feel the same way about someone as they do you. Please only show the truth to them with the same gentle kindness, compassion as you would want for yourself.
- Lastly on love: Love is never violent. Love never includes intentionally hurting someone or allowing them to hurt you. Love needs two people who honor, respect, care, give and communicate and does not exist until those conditions are met.
You have such big dreams for yourself. You want to move to Hollywood, be a famous actor/director and have planned to be a Doctor if things don't pan out. Anyone who knows you knows that these things are all possible, even probable. What you need to know is that it's okay to question yourself, to be unsure or even to change course altogether; just never, ever give up dreaming. Not now, not when you're 55.
- As long as you're willing to put the work in to something and learn from the people who went before, you are guaranteed to learn something from the experience.
- You are never guaranteed to be famous, rich, or even the best at something, but as long as you're living, breathing, dreaming and sustaining yourself you're doing better than most of the world.
- You have to remember your foundation, though. Do well in school now - that will be your ticket out of this town. You will have the habits and the connections and the love of learning you will need to succeed in your next chapter.
You will never truly know how loved you are until you have your own children, so I will try to tell you just a few things to remember that you can understand now.
We are going to fight. Our fights will include, but are not limited to:
bedtime, showers, clothes, going out, electronics you want, electronics you have, chores, money, friends, good decisions, bad decisions, freedoms you want, responsibilities you have fallen down on, what you're eating, what you're not eating, sleeping too much, not sleeping enough, talking too much, not talking enough...
You, your Dad and I will belong to each other for all eternity - we were meant to live this life as a team. I wish we could have given you a sibling to share this life with, but since that is not a guarantee please keep your relationships with your other family strong. Some of the best times in my life were with my cousins, Aunts, Uncles and Grandparents. Those are the people you will need if ever something happens to your Dad or I, or even if you just need someone else to talk to. You would not be here if it weren't for the support of our families. Your grandmas rocked you to sleep when I was working and going to school, your grandpas taught you how to pee standing up and ride a bike. Your aunts and uncles bought you toys and goldfish when we wouldn't have been able to afford it.
The people who love you LOVE YOU SO MUCH.
This letter is longer than I meant it to be, but this is just the tip of the iceberg that's coming towards us. As you grow (as I grow, as your Dad grows) we will all be learning, we will all be changing. So be tolerant, be loving, be kind, be generous, be humble, be proud of your accomplishments, be the person who stands up for others, be the guy who listens, be the friend you want, be the cousin who calls, the grandson who genuinely likes the old fashioned gifts from grandma. Be You. You already make us so proud. Every day you get older is a day closer to your adult life where we really get to see you shine.
I love you.