Saturday, August 09, 2008

Happy 16th Birthday, Zachary!

Today is my son's 16th birthday. I wrote a letter to him, some of which I will share below. He will either save the letter for posterity or not, it doesn't much matter I guess. At age sixteen, any influence his mother and I might have on how he develops into adulthood is pretty much over. I hope we have done a good job.

Dear Zachary:

Today is August 9, 2008. We are celebrating a very special day, your 16th birthday. I turned sixteen in 1961 and I wonder sometimes, and I’m sure you do too, whether any of my experiences, and those of your considerably younger mother, are even remotely relevant to the way we have tried to raise you into the fine young man you are today.

I think our experiences and our values are relevant. Your mother and I take great pleasure whenever we are told by teachers, parents and other people we know, how nice a person you are. Our experiences and our values definitely do have some part to play in that.

Our genes too have played an important part. You have your mother’s genial and easy-going nature when it is appropriate and my intensity and focus when you feel challenged. It is a toss-up whether you or I would win a challenge of wills. The secret, dear Zachary, is to know when to stand up and be counted and when to back down from confrontation. Even someone with your intellect needs the wisdom of experience and enough time on earth to know whether something is right or appropriate or if it is worth the inevitable fight that results if you won’t back down.

But you really don’t cause us much trouble, do you? Mom and I both know that. You are a very special kid and always have been. We are proud of you in a way that you will only begin to understand when you are yourself a parent. We love you because of who you are, because of your potential to be whatever you wish to be, and because you will live on and represent the genes bestowed on you by your mother and father, long after we are gone. And then, when you are ready and have found that perfect mate of your own, you will pass those genes on to another generation. We will live on through you and your children, as you yourself will one day.

This is a very special birthday. We could have given you a car, or some other expensive gift to mark the occasion. Instead, mom and I are going to give you a big hug and a big ‘Thank You!!’ for coming into our lives and enriching our remaining time here on earth. We could do no better than having you as our child and we will always be grateful that you came along.

And we will love you always, unconditionally.

Happy 16th birthday, son.


Dad and Mom


  1. Happy Birthday, long lost cousin!

  2. How apropos!
    I came to ask about parenting.
    What would you do if you found out you had a son you never knew you had (a "blast from the past" so to speak)? Let's just say my whole world's been turned upside down in the last three months. I've been trying to compile some coherent thoughts about what to do/say to him on a cloistered blog.
    If you could respond by the email link on my profile, it would be helpful.
    Many, many thanks.

  3. Ted: It was a pleasure to speak to you on the telephone about your son and I know that everything is going to turn out just fine. Hang in there!

  4. Happy birthday to the handsome young man!

  5. Thanks, phlegmfatale! How quickly time goes by... I when he was just a couple of days old, walking around the pool with him in my arms, telling him of the wonderful life that lay ahead and of all the great times we would have together. Now he's sixteen. And I'm sixteen years older. And we have had a lot of great times together and hopefully many more to come.

  6. lol!! I love your letters, Atavist! And, I love the picture of your handsome son. But, I had to laugh at this: "We could have given you a car, or some other expensive gift to mark the occasion. Instead, mom and I are going to give you a big hug..." lol! Being sixteen, that's bound to burn a bit. ;) You're so funny. And, you're an amazing Dad. I am sure your son will appreciate your letter and I'm certain that he's grown up well. Congratulations on having a 16 year old son that you are proud of. That in itself is a feat these days.

  7. Thanks Penny. He is a good kid and I am so grateful for that. Nice to hear from you.

  8. Justin let me take his picture, but the full spread are so bad (poor light, camera movement) it's not fit to post. One of them was PhotoShop-able to the point I can atleast put it up as wallpaper on the desktop, but I'm glad to have what I do.
    Now he's about a hundred miles east of Des Moines, IA.
    I'm hoping he makes it "home" to Omaha tonight...I'll not be able to sleep til I hear he did.

  9. Happy belated birthday to your Zachary. I'm sure he will store your letter and read it often throughout the years to come.

    You are right they do grow up quick. First you are changing diapers, you blink and they are taking tiny steps as they hold your hand. You blink and they are learning to drive. You blink and they are in college. *sniffle sniffle*

    Your letter made me cry, I can only imagine what else was written. What an awesome relationship you and your family have. It's encouraging to read about families who love each other.

  10. When I read your blog, Lady~g, it reminds me (as you point out here) of how important it is to appreciate family when you still can. My parents are both gone, but their influence lives on in me and in my siblings. I can only hope that my wife and I have a similarly positive effect on my son and on his future.