This is a hard one to write. But I’m writing it. Because if I don’t, I will miss the opportunity to bring the accountability I’ve brought to the rest of my life to the most important people in my life: my kids.
This post isn’t for anyone else; this post is for me to read and reference over the course of the next 12 months as I hold myself accountable to continuing to grow, improve, evolve, get better, as a Father.
Today was an exceptionally tough Father’s Day. The range of emotions I continue to work through, balancing the day-to-day effort I make and the perception of that effort is … dissonant. I haven’t found a way to reconcile the reality of it all but I know it won’t be for a lack of effort or self-awareness.
In a sense, it parallels the experiences I find myself in across my personal and professional interactions. Which in some senses, makes it easier to therefore find healthy ways forward. 2021 in many ways, has been my healthiest year on this planet. Not my easiest; but in many ways, my healthiest (honestly, I think with each year, you gain more perspective, more responsibility, increased expectations, and as a result, in some senses, with each year, it all gets heavier to carry; the question is whether that weight is harder, which is a separate discussion for a separate day).
Juxtaposed with that weight associated with growth, is this increasing sense of responsibility.
See, Anaiya and Jaanu, you grow and transform at such an extraordinary pace on a daily basis. It’s impossible to keep up with your progress. And what I think really resonated with me over the past year was the fact that to keep up with you, my growth as a Father needs to keep up with your growth and evolution as a human being.
It’s 10:51 pm and I entered today fully expecting to take another step forward as a Father. One way I planned to do that was to ask my children to tell me what it was they wanted me to do better in this upcoming year.
It’s always hard to hear; what you can do better. But this evening, before the kids went to bed, it wasn’t harder, it was simply a bit more clarifying.
When you ask a question, expect to hear the truth back. Otherwise, don’t ask the question.
For Anaiya, her ask was that I find more time to put her to bed during the week. There are so many reasons this has become a near impossibility, but when I look at them, in reality, they’re more excuses than reasons. I’m excited to look back on this past year in 2022 and see if Anaiya remembers what she asked me, and, see if she acknowledges any progess I’ve made. I’m excited for it.
For Jaanu, perhaps the most heartbreaking, was that he asked me to be more patient with him when he’s not listening. What’s hard is that since the last time I truly raised my voice at him, in January, I’ve made an active effort to be patient with him and talk him through calming him down. It tells you how fragile our children are; because for all that effort I think I’m making, he still remembers … the times I’m not.
I feel the weight of the world after these two conversations. Because I know that even here, I feel very little space to reason, to rationalize.
All I have are expectations.
And like everywhere else, when it comes to expectations, you can have them thrust upon you, or you can ask for them, seek them out, and make them a choice.
I want to be the best Father I can possibly be; which is why I promised myself that as hard as it was going to be to hear, and as many excuses and rationalizations as I could make about what I heard, the only thing that mattered was the honest answers to my questions.
Because in pursuit of being the best Father I can possibly be, I’m not looking for validation, I’m looking for motivation.
Anaiya and Jaanu, thank you. For relentlessly holding me to a higher standard.
Thanks for raising the bar on me, about me, for me.
From the moment the kids struggled to go to bed last night I had prepared myself for a tough morning.
As a parent, you know the delicate interdependency of moments. This staying up late moment is a short term concession that will make sleepytime tougher, likely make them tired in the morning, and make anything through at least lunch a battle.
So I prepared for it. Went to bed early. Woke up before them. Took all my breaths this AM. Had breakfast stuff ready to go.
All before they woke.
And I still screwed it up. I tried to cut through their behavior 15 different ways but by 11am (geez, just thinking of that short fuse is a level of guilt I won’t shake for a while) I had lost it. Separating them. Reading to them. Playing with them. Making them change their clothes again to reset the day.
In the 3 minutes between finishing a chapter in The Tale or Despereaux and starting to unpack a volcano gift the kids devolved into the worst side of Cobra Kai and I snapped. At a booming level that I’m sure is still bouncing around in their skulls.
I was overconfident today. There’s a lot going on and I wasn’t kind enough or honest enough with myself to give myself space. To let them hop on the TV. Or do their iPads when nothing else was working.
They didn’t need the space. Maybe I did?So here we stand. It’s 1pm. And I’ve conceded the day.
#iamgrateful and #iamthankful … that tomorrow is a new day. Sometimes, the best part about increments of time is knowing that the increment you’re in, is soon over and permanently behind you.
For all our complaints about time moving relentlessly forward, it’s days like today that I can’t help but be thankful.
4 counts in
7 counts hold
8 counts out
All we can do is acknowledge it, give ourselves space, and get better.
Update: I shared this because I know we’ve all been there. And it felt right to share. Sometimes, even with our kids, the folks we love the most, the best thing is space. Space that acknowledges right now they just don’t want to hear it, and space that acknowledges right now, we just don’t want to say it.
I’m good. At 1230 I embraced the day. Just letting it unfold and doing less to impose myself on it and more to take the instructions it (and they) give me.
There’s something powerful about knowing that, in advance of an achievement or an accomplishment, or in advance of something you release to the world, there’s a receptive audience.
For your ideas.
For your visions.
For your dreams.
When you think of the greatest achievements the world has known, you often think of two universes circling the achiever. The ideator.
You think of those who came so close to genius, and instead of creating space for it, cast it aside. Walked past it, or even more powerfully, stopped, stared, and let it walk on by instead.
“I’m not even going to do the work of dismissing you; you can do that yourself.”
That’s one universe.
The other universe though, is the fan.
People rise and fall to the expectations we set for them. That message is meant for the people setting expectations.
It’s most important though, for the people upon whom those expectations are set.
Which is why in those stories of genius it’s amazing to think of the power of being a fan.
One fan can offset hundreds, even thousands of detractors. One fan can negate all of the doubt, and set a bar so extraordinarily high, the doubters fade from the rear view mirror and are soon so far gone, it’s ridiculous to think they even existed.
Today, on your birthday, my magic, you did it again. You reminded me why I’m your biggest fan. You reminded me why from the moment you were born, everyone had a name for you, but I had a feeling.
I watched you set up art stations in our garage for all your friends. I watched you circle the room to make sure everyone was taken care of. I watched you pick individual paint-by-numbers for each person based on what they like and what they’d like to paint.
I watched you.
I also watched you heave after all was said and done. As your friends clustered off together. I watched you circle our house alone. And then, when I tapped you on the shoulder I watched you shake your head free of some of that self doubt and questioning, and come back to earth, and make sure nobody else played alone, and make sure everyone had their goodie bag.
You make friends everywhere you go. You design, build, construct, friendships. When you make friends, you truly make them.
I watched you love and care at age 7 like many at my age can’t even fathom.
It’s when I realized that I need to be an even more vocal and bigger fan of you and the love you’re capable of bringing into this world. And so I shall.
I’ll forget sometimes. But I’ll come back to this post. I’ll look at these pictures. And I’ll remember.
That for you and your ability to love so creatively — so artistically — I’m downright fanatical.
As you turn 7, today my love for you is like what the greatest connoisseurs of art feel for their favorite artists. And then some.
I love you my magic. Keep loving the world as exceptionally as you do. I’ll remember my place and I assure you, like all great things, the world will take not and celebrate it more and more.
I’ve been trying to write this post for 3 weeks. I’ve tried many different hooks and patterns. I’ve tried to be simple. I’ve tried to be poetic. i’ve tried analogies. I’ve tried to be detailed. Yet every time I got about 350 words deep, I’ve leaned my head back away from my laptop, frowned, selected all of the text in the editor, and hit “delete”.
Nothing I can write does my feelings and my appreciation for you, justice. Nothing.
I have no words. There are no words. Language is limiting. As I understand it, there are over 1,000,000 total words in the English language, over 170,000 in current use, and on average, a person uses 30,000 of them.
As I told your Mama when I proposed to her: “even 1,000 poets, writing 1,000 words a day, for 1,000 years can’t capture what moved me to propose to her”.
Now; for the second time in my life, I find myself verbally helpless; trying to find a way to bridge how I feel with the few words available and the even fewer words I know.
I don’t know how to capture what I’m feeling in words; in a way that you will read them at some point in your future and understand the weight of the feeling and the sentiments behind them.
But what I know, is that it won’t be for a lack of trying.
Anaiya. Jaanu. Buhboo.
For all of my worth as a human being: thank you.
There will come a day in your future; maybe a few, where you’ll wonder if you are up to the task. If you can pass some obstacle in front of you. If you can conquer some challenge. If you can go some Seussian places you want to go.
You will wonder. You will pause. You will hesitate. You will question.
And when you do, I want you to read this. And then, I want you to call me. On the phone. Over whatever device is in vogue when that challenge presents itself. And when I’m past my life while you’re still living yours, close your eyes and picture me. Reading this to you.
There is absolutely nothing you can’t do. Because at age 6 and age 3, you took the greatest punch the world has seen in over 100 years. You took something that crippled towns, cities, states, countries. You took a haymaker that brought humankind to its knees. In days. To our collective knees.
You took that. And you brushed it off your shoulder in a way that would make Aaliyah, Jay-Z, Barack Obama proud. You wiped a drop off blood of your lip in a way that would make Bruce Lee, and every Saturday afternoon Kung Fu theater hero (as well as your Dada Fua) proud.
There has been so much discussion about the lockdown the world has experienced post COVID-19. Coronavirus. Corona – why us? There’s been some discussion about how resilient and adaptable human beings are. How if you had told us 3 months ago the way we’d be forced to live now, we’d never have been able to imagine it; and we certainly would have denied it would be possible .But when it happened, we adapted, and here we are.
Yes. Adaptable. Resilient.
But none of us are doing this adaptable thing, this resilient thing, with your grace.And that is precisely where I lose all ability to express myself.
I want to tell you how one night you went to bed, ready for the next day. Your ordinary next day. An Alexa alarm. Breakfast and drop-offs. School and play time. Somewhere between 9 and 10 hours, a super majority of your life, for a super majority of your days each week, you were immersed in a world that we got glimpses of when we opened your backpacks, checked logs and updates from your teachers, hears mentions of when you had the time, energy and interest.
One night you went to bed, ready to do all the things we told you that you had to do. When we dropped you off at daycare. When we celebrated your first day of school Make friends. Play nice. Listen to your teachers. Eat your meals. Be strong when you’re being bullied. Find strength when we aren’t there and when you feel like nobody else is, however fleeting. Do all these things because they are the most important things for you to learn now.
One night you went to bed knowing the next day was going to be filled with all those things.
And when Alexa woke you up that next day, we told you that wasn’t happening anymore. We told you that schedule, that way, wasn’t going to be the way. For a while.
If that had happened to me, I’d have needed a lifetime to plan, and a lifetime to prepare, and a lifetime to adjust; and I’d go through the motions and I’d do what I’m supposed to do.
But I don’t think, ever in my life, that I have operated with your grace. How can someone be so strong, so unwavering, so staunchly making progress, while doing so in a way that seems so effortless, so natural. You see, when I look at you, I don’t remember the way our life was 5 weeks ago. Because when I look at you, and observe you act, and watch you interact — I am only convinced that the way we’re living now is the only and obvious way we have been living all along.
When I look at my calendar. When I talk to people at work. When I read the news. Tonight is Sunday. Week 5 of quarantine. Poised for an even longer and more isolated road ahead. Into a new normal. Never returning to the way life was before. And it can be overwhelming.
When I look at you, though.
What are we doing today, Buhboo?
Thanks for grading our worksheets, Buhboo!
Yay, we get to watch a movie, Buhboo!
I didn’t like my dinner, Buhboo, but I’ll eat it for you, Buhboo!
When I’m with you, it’s Sunday. It’s just Sunday for you.
And you’ve found a way to make it “just Sunday” for me too.
You can’t see your friends. Except, maybe from across the street. You can’t hug your Nana, Nani, Dadi, Tito Foi. Your Mamu is living with us, upstairs, in the guest bedroom and the best you can do is let him know when you’re downstairs so he can step out to get the tray of food we’ve left outside his door.
You can’t go to the park. You can’t go for ice cream. You can’t go to Charlie Brown’s (yeah, by the way, we need to talk about how for most of your childhood your favorite restaurant was a terrible chain restaurant that indicates you share a palate and a thirst for ambience with people born in the 1940s).You can’t go to school. You can’t go to Tae Kwon Do. You can’t go to Dance Class. You can’t go to Bagels 4 U. You can’t go to Genus Boni. You can’t go to Shop Rite and you definitely can’t get the free cheese handouts there and at Whole Foods. You can’t … do … everything that brought you joy.
Yet you’re still, full of joy.
You are. Absolutely full of joy. It is because of you, I wake up with a bounce in my step excited about what we’re going to do today. Because of how you ask your questions, I focus on what we can and will do today; not what we can’t or can no longer.“Buhboo, what’s our plan for tomorrow?”
What an absolutely beautiful question; Warren Berger would adore it. “What is our plan for tomorrow” is more intrinsically hopeful than “What are all the things we can’t do tomorrow that we could have done 5 weeks ago?
”It’s been 5 weeks, and you’re still asking beautiful questions.
You’re making me see the beautiful.
Your laughs fill our house. Your cries do too; but if we were to put them on scales, there would be no contest in terms of which direction we’re tipping.I’m also watching you grow.
Anaiya: Yoga. Dance. Math. Reading. Mentoring. Eating. Breathing. Guiding. Defiance (I mean, you absolutely hate to lose at a level that would make Michael Jordan proud.) Love. The way you clutch my arm, at bedtime, at wakey time, and at so many times in-between, and hold it like it’s the last arm you’ll get to hold and hug on earth. I can’t help but feel that some of that has nothing to do with me, actually; you’re holding my arm so tightly because it’s the one place where all that’s been taken away from you is manifesting. And riding your bike with no training wheels. Yeah, that happened.
Jaanu: Dance. Gibberish. Letters. Tracing. Troubleshooting. Putting away dishes. Cleaning. Defiance (I mean, you absolutely hate being told what to do.) The way you proclaim to every person who’s ready to hear you that they are “the greatest in the history” is tagline and catchphrase I hope you never lose. I can’t help but feel that you’re expressing that as a way of defining a new baseline for history, and helping people find positivity and feel special in this altogether new way of being.
I’m words, sentences, paragraphs in; and as you can see, I’ve written so much, and I’ve said so little that captures how proud I am of you. How honored I am to be your Dad, your Buhboo.1,000 poets. 1,000 words a day. 1,000 years.
Even when, as a family, we experience the most extraordinary of losses, you find a way to bring love, to comfort, to hug and support — videos weren’t designed to have this kind of impact and sincerity. You have managed to make video feel human and intimate.
Consolation is something you give to people. After loss. After disappointment. Right now, as I read what people write and say and share; I feel an excessive amount of consolation. I see a world full of people acknowledging loss and disappointment and sadness; and from that, trying to force a rose to bloom from concrete.
Consolation is what I see and hear in every interaction.
Except the ones I have with you.
With you, it’s “just Sunday”.With you, it’s “what IS our plan?”
With you, it’s not resilience. Or adaptability. Or perseverance.
With you, it’s not about the new normal.
With you, it’s just what’s next. Your ability to make everything that is, seem natural; and to make what’s next, seem possible. Is what makes me, so uncontrollably humbled and so infinitely proud, and so eternally enamored.
So when that hill, or that mountain, or that sea, or that valley, shows up in your way. I want you to call me. On your phone. On your <<unnamed device>>. On your memory.
And I want you to hear me. Loudly. Clearly.
The world handed you the worst the world has handed anyone. And you flicked, brushed, dusted, and resumed. #iamgrateful and #iamthankful for you.
Thank you, my children. Thank you, my kids. Your Mama and I wish the rest of the universe had you to wake up to, you to bring tomorrow’s schedule to, you … to look forward to.
Because then, they’d all be as happy, as proud, as hopeful, as we are.(And just as speechless.)How much do I love you? More than anything.
I don’t know how to explain it or you. I’m dumbfounded.
You’re 5 years old and change. Sometimes you have the auditory sensibilities of an 80 year old Roadie who traveled with the Stones but “never could afford those ear plugs”. But sometimes, you demonstrate the auditory acuity of Superwoman wearing Miracle Ear.
The best part? Those often toggle on and off as personas in the same conversation.
But I’m here to write for you today because there are times when I do just feel. Heavy. Old. Dragging. Barely carrying my own weight let alone being able to pick you up when you want.
And the most magical sound and the most magical face for me is yours, in that moment. When literally not a soul is attuned to my self-awareness of my own inabilities, and life is just moving forward — Godspeed – life is just accelerating like Cole Trickle on a comeback lap.
When literally, that’s the scene, and the studio audience is waiting for a feeling.
You step in.
And make eye contact. It’s one of the times you treat me like you treat everything else you focus on, and nothing else matters. You drop your fork. You drop your crayon. You drop your dolls. You drop your interests.
And you look at me and you keep saying “Buhboo” until I look back.
And then you drop it like Thor’s hammer.
“I love you.”
And with that, my wings have wind.
You’ve done that to me since you were born, Buhboo. With your actions (when I was stressed and needed you to chill or sleep or stay asleep, you magically did), and now, with your attention.
Thank you, Buhboo. You heal me with your words and your attention. I love you, Anaiya.
Van Worst Park is such a simple pleasure. When we moved to Jersey City, we couldn’t quite justify living on the water, so we paid attention to a Realtor who told us that if we can’t get the water in JC, we should be happy with a park. It’s a solid park. But it turned into something special earlier this afternoon.
The weather was nice. We were headed into winter and the fact that it was nice outside (meaning we could go outside without fearing you’d hate us for a few hours after the fact) meant that we had to go outside. You’re an outdoor baby. It calms you. I feel like your happiness is directly correlated to the number of leaves you see around you — maybe with a bit of sunshine factored in.
It’s always been that way, though. From the moment we could take you outside, if we did, you were happier. Taking it all in. Looking around you. Observing. Reaching. The first thing I ever saw you reach for was a leaf. And you went for it. Like you do everything. You saw. You committed. And you went for it.
The park on this beautiful late Fall day was no different. We strolled. You did some slide work. Pulled yourself up to a lovely outdoor abacus. And life was grand. But nothing compared to you on that swing. It was freedom. You were seated. And you were experiencing. No fear. No matter how excited I got and how hard I pushed. You smiled on your way to us and on your way back. Sheer happiness.
I’d like to get a swing installed in every room in our condo. What do you think? My guess if you could respond? Weeeeeeeeeeeeee! Which totally explains my love for you today, munchkin. It was as exhilarating to watch you on that swing as it has been for me to take loops at Great Adventure.
This is one of those posts that might actually get me in trouble. In a decade, I have no idea how this is going to be taken. I know it’s going to be available. But I’m banking on the fact that by the time this kind of stuff has the potential to embarrass you, the private sector will have created ways to make any of the embarrassing stuff go away. Disappear. I’m banking on it.
Why? Because I don’t care where you are. The fact that you sleep with your butt pointed to the camera and basically up in the air is enjoyable. It’s adorable now. In 10-15 years, it’s going to be an awkward topic of conversation. Again, I’m banking on some things.
But this is how you sleep, and I love every second of it. It makes your baby monitor substantially more entertaining than anything FiOS could ever cobble together across it’s 1000+ channels.
Today my love for you is anchored in your monitor. Because you’re mooning me. And I’m only hoping you’re smiling on the other side and in your dreams. Because if you aren’t smiling now, you certainly aren’t going to be about this in high school.
You’ve been playing games with us for a little while, little one. One of my favorites is when you’re trying to get our attention and you fake cough. Your mom and I laugh every time. Because we know you’re not sick. But we also know you just won–because we’re totally paying attention. I’m fine with sharing this here because by the time you can read this, it’ll be too late for those tricks (or will it?)
This was a text I got from your mom. Amazing. You are playing peek-a-book, kind of. You’re doing the peeking, your mom is doing the booing, but together, it makes me smile. Together, the two of you make me smile anyway, so I guess the highlight here goes back to game time. Today my love for you is peeking (and booing.)