a letter to my first son on his second birthday
take it from someone who's been 2 - savor it. 3 is alot, and don't get me started on the tax implications of 4
First off, just to get it out of the way: nice work, so far.
You've come a long way. The improvement from the day you started with us to now has been, frankly, astounding.
Your risk taking abilities are undeniable, but we cannot allow for more throwing of wine bottles at the supermarket.
You are full of potential, and your language - wow. But, you do seem to be using the same words over and over again and it's starting to concern management (nothing to worry about yet), just something to keep an eye on. Speaking of, boy you are great at soccer! We love that!
Look, you know how much we love a strong mother son bond at this firm. It's one of our Cornerstone Values, and we see how deeply you've taken that to heart. We are concerned, though, about how clingy you’ve gotten with your superior, Mama, as of late. When you say "I want mama" 100x whenever she's not around, it really brings down the morale of the other members on the team like, for example, papa just to name one person it affects as an example.
Ok! That’s it on the performance review. Like we said above, nothing to be concerned about, just a few things to make sure you change before next year!
We did - and this is highly unusual, by the way - receive a letter from your papa that he asked be given to you today. It seems like he wrote it a few minutes ago, actually.
You did it. Wobbled and gobbled your way to 2.
There's a photo of you on my desktop background – you're a lil 18mo pudgeball squatting with your butt juuuust above the ground, and you've got a smirk on your face. Dang wait - the photo is gone. It morphed into a new one, like it does every 15 minutes.
The new one is still you, still squatting, but you’re younger here. A year old, maybe? Same guy, for sure, same pudge, but different, too. More amorphous, unsure yet what it will become.
I can't believe you're real.
One of my favorite jokes is just pointing at you and screaming, 'THAT’S MY SON!' Like I'm about to run into a burning building to save you in a Lifetime movie.
Because whenever I have to say it normally, ‘yes, that’s my son,’ I feel like I’m acting. This isn’t real. It can’t be. I wrote about this when you were 9 months old:
It feels like I’m like I’m reciting dialogue for a character I could never, ever play. Dustin Hoffman and Chevy Chase and Liam Neeson and all the other actors who play dads were unavailable, so they were like ok shit, let’s get that dude Alex who still eats 60% of a salad with his bare hands in here and see if he can pull it off. And now the production is under way and here I am, playing the part of Dad, for the rest of my days.
I am now someone who can say - and factually mean - “all that matters is my family.” What?! That’s something you hear in westerns and WWII movies when the hero realizes, tears in her eyes, that the fame / money / whatever goal they wanted isn’t what they really wanted. That what they really wanted was right under their noses the whole time.
And now, that’s me. Or at least it could be, theoretically. Like there is nothing stopping me from walking into Ralphs to buy some Diet Coke and baby food and say, proudly to the cashier: “all that matters is my family.”
And yes, I did just back-link in my letter to you. If I’ve taught you one thing, I hope its that “Everything is SEOkay!”
But that was fifteen months ago. And it’s still weird. More so, now, somehow. You are new and different and scary and amazing, this little ball of feelings and fear, knees and need, wonder and woe.
but who are you, really?
I’ve seen a lot of kids lose themselves at this point. They forget who they were as they try to become “three” and they regret it, spending the rest of life trying to get back to that perfect place of two.
In an effort to ensure that doesn’t happen, allow me to share a brief sketch of who you are, at this point in time.
you are equal parts chaos and care.
you drop shit and then say ‘wha happen?’. Later in life this is called gaslighting but for now I guess youre getting away with it, I guess.
you love books you love your mama. you like me more than you used to (link). Our relationship is on the up. I love reading to you, too.
you're very funny. This is hard for me because I try really hard to be funny and often succeed at it, but you seem to just do it naturally. And not just 'oh haha kids are so cute and silly' funny, you're like, funny funny. Sarah, the woman who runs your daycare - Honeysuckle House - always says, "He's funny" and I know what she means, and I am NOT, god forbid, becoming one of those parents that takes some offhanded comment about their child and turns it into prophecy. You are not the second coming of Chris Gethard. You are better (all due respect to CG).
Don’t worry though, I’m not going to resent you for your innate sense of comedic timing, no way. That’d be insane.
Instead, I’ll train you to be the best comic there has ever been. Like Richard Williams with his daughters Venus and Serena, or Earl Woods and his son Tiger.
When his son was only 21 years old, Earl said that Tiger…
"will transcend this game and bring to the world a humanitarianism which has never been known before…Sometimes I get very emotional when I talk about my son. My heart fills with so much joy when I realize that this young man is going to help so many people. The world will be a better place to live in by virtue of his existence and his presence. This is my treasure. Please accept it and use it wisely."
Which is literally exactly the same as how I feel about you. Especially the humanitarianism.
Venus and Serena’s dad made a 78-page playbook for how he’d make them into champions (he did say he was in the ‘champion-raising’ business, so this checks out).
That felt like a lot, so I’ve instead written out a loose, one-day schedule that we can use to get you started. This, in and of itself, as I am sure you know, is funny.
wake up at 5am every day for prat falls
prop comedy with bagels, eggs, milk, etc (also breakfast)
Three Stooges viewing
knock knock jokes training (near a door)
nap time (needs to be a funny nap, ham up the snoring etc)
Baby on the street interviews
knock knock training with no door
The forever now
The photo changed again, this time to you crawling toward an electrical outlet (that's covered, don't worry). The LA sunset behind you, it feels like a great candidate for a future album cover, if you ever need it.
I bet this was like nine months back? Longer? That's the thing - I can't really remember. We look at you and say "its happening so fast" and "oh he's changed so much!"
We're comparing who you were with who you are now, and all we can see is the difference.
That change is who you are now, to us.
You, then, are change.
Three months ago you only ate eggs. Now you eat mostly avocado and some egg and bread but it has to be 'hot.'
A year back, you said ‘purple’ all the time. We then realized you were saying ‘poo poo,’ which makes sense, since now your main job is head of the Poo Poo police. Duties include, and are very much limited to, pointing out Robert’s dog poo and demanding that I pick it up. I think you recently got promoted to cover the whole neighborhood, because you now point out other dog’s poop as well. The neighborhood is your beat.
For a long time, we told you what to do. Now, you tell us what to do. I washed your feet after the park today and you then screamed that my feet had dirt and demanded I wash mine too. Also you scream, "sit DOWN" a lot, hitting the couch cushion next to where you're sitting, demanding (not asking), for us to come sit.
Your now now
As I write this, you’re on the couch, watching Cars and eating hot bread. It’s the final race and Lightning McQueen is going so fast.
You’re speeding through life, going so fast that we can barely keep up. That’s why we need the photos. They catch you, briefly, frozen in time. Blurry, sure, but still, there you are when you were six months old, drinking from the dog bowl. And there you are a year later, dropping Robert’s dog bowl, about to scream ‘wha happen’ before it even hits the ground seriously this is not okay we need to talk about this.
This photo just popped up , easily one of my favorites. It's a polaroid shot of me holding you as you look off into the distance, sad or adrift, a little on edge or maybe just pondering. You seem overwhelmed by the weight of it all, like you had no idea being alive meant all…this.
There on my shoulder, you look safe, like you know its okay to wonder and be afraid and, just when I’m least expecting it, look up and give me one of those patented comedic eye rolls you’ve gotten so good at even though I haven’t even trained you on those.
A couple days later, and I’m putting you down for a nap. You’re draped over my shoulder just like in the photo. I’m standing, rocking you to sleep, and your right hand grabs onto the index finger of my left hand. You squeeze as if to say, "I feel safe here" and it makes me feel safe too.
I coulda stayed lost in that moment forever, but then I thought about how it'd be a perfect ending for this piece so I put you down and ran over here to write it so that eventually, one day, when you’re in the future now, you can read it which, if you are reading it, has become your now now.
I hope its a great one, I love you, and also please call me, I have a funny idea I want you to write about.
This is still part of the letter. Son, if you have a few bucks to spare, would you mind subscribing to your dad’s substack? It would mean a ton. You get a lot of extra stuff like an essay I released last month called “beautiful disasters” and most importantly, you can feel like you’re supporting your pops. I do need this, son.
Or perhaps, my sweet son, you have unsubscribed? Too much fun stuff from dada? In that case, please just, ya know, sign up? It’s free, my son, I am begging.
Comment get it!
Do you remember life at two? Any tips for my son?
If the 2-year old version of you could communicate his thoughts and feelings into readable English, what advice do you think they’d give to you?
Everyone shows love differently - if you’re a parent how do you show it to your kids? Is it different than how your parents were with you?
What training should I make sure to give Wilder to ensure he becomes a Big Comedic Success