Dear Little Man,
You know, there are times when I look at you and I know that when you get older you are going to ask me what happened with our family. Growing up, I was grateful that you were so well adjusted to our separation. You mother and I, regardless of our differences, always agreed that nothing good would come of putting you in the middle of our problems. I will always be grateful for that; even your school teachers said that your behavior in school seemed to get better once we separated and I moved out of the house.
So now that you've become a man, you've asked me several times what happened between us. Each time, I've told you I'll tell you when you're older. When you're old enough to drive; when you're old enough to drink. Well, I'm sorry; I still don't think the time is right for you to know the details. One of the things I have always done is honored your mother for you, just as she has done for me. Our problems remain our problems; and this is something that you will need to learn to accept over time. When we are peers and you have been married, had a child, created a career, and carved your place in life then we can talk about this. As corny as it sounds, you still have too much to learn and experience. It's simply not the right time, and I hope you can understand.
Now, with that in mind I want you to live and benefit from my mistakes. I want you to learn from them, and not have to relive them. You've told me about being in love, and how your relationships are getting more serious. I'm happy for you, and excited for the opportunities that are in front of you. A good relationship will enhance your life. It will give you insight into aspects of yourself that hide from the world, and empower you to achieve more. The flip side of that is that a bad relationship will limit you; it will whittle you down to a sliver of yourself. Given who you are, you will know when things are right and when you have a good thing going. Its hard, sometimes though, to understand when things are bad; when it is time to move on. Here is some advice on when / why to move on:
Remember that relationships don't define you. They don't determine who you are. They describe where we are in life, and demonstrate what we value. Its ok for this to change over time, and when it changes its ok to recognize, accept it, and move on. If you find that your relationships define you, then maybe you have forgotten who you are. Don't let that happen.
This is going to sound like a cliche, but sex is not love. Great sex should be celebrated, but it cannot be the basis for a relationship. If you have not experienced this yet, you will soon and will know exactly what I mean (this is one of those things that you will know when you know). Ride it out for however long you can, but be real about what you have. Remember: a kiss is not a contract.
If you find yourself "hoping" your relationship will change, leave. Hope on its own has never changed anything; it certainly cannot change people. If you think that "waiting" for someone to change or that they will "see the light" at some point is noble, think again. In relationships, chumps hope. Now, at some point in your life you may find someone that you feel is worth your "hope" because when things are good, they are better than anything you have lived through or experienced. As a father, I want you to know that this will be your cross to bear, and it will be your choice alone to value this person more than yourself.
Does she say she loves you, but act differently (like she resents you, for example)? What people say and what they do can sometimes be very different. If they are, look out. You want to be with someone that lives congruently; whose actions are aligned with their emotions, thoughts, and goals. If she loves you but likes to put you down, walk away. Does she need to be right or have the last word? Does she feel the need to elevate herself above you (for whatever reason)? Does she put you down when she feels bad? If so, she has contempt for you at some level. Walk away.
Its smart to walk away from a bad thing, and trust your instincts when they tell you something is bad for you. Your instincts are right more often than we give them credit for; respect and hone them. Walking away takes courage and conviction; it takes strength and will. Believe in yourself and trust your instincts.
Nothing is more important than loving, respecting, and nurturing yourself. If you don't love yourself, no one will love you back. If you do not respect yourself, people will not respect you. If you do not nurture yourself, you will not learn, grow, or evolve. I feel that these three things are keys to living; I didn't learn this until my 30's. Hopefully you have learned it already.
Kid, you have always been the greatest gift my life has experienced. I am honored to be your father, and hope your understand the things I am talking about in this letter. I will always be here for you.
With Love and Respect,
Sunday, August 5, 2007
Dear Little Man,