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.
People have to wonder if you’re scripted. There’s no other answer.
How is it, for a boy of 4, when granted any wish for his birthday, almost as if given a genie in a lamp, turns quickly to his parents and without batting an eye and without missing a beat, responds with more confidence than an honest man on trial:
“I want the whole family together.”
Except with you, there’s no cliffhanger.
There’s no clause to follow. There’s no extension of the ask. There’s no “I want the whole family together, so I can get more gifts.”
There’s just you.
Expressing your incredibly kind, warm, loving soul, in the most authentic of ways.
When we got the family together, and when the house we rented tortured us into leaving after 18 hours, you know what made everything ok: knowing that you would be more than ok.
I realized that the house, was for us. The pool was for us. The game room was for us. The weekend plans were for us.
The “us” was for you, and the “us” was all you needed.
As much as you find excitement in new things; gifts, toys, foods, experiences. What’s so magical about you is that consistently the simplest things make you happiest. And nothing makes you happier than time with the people (family and friends) you love.
You remind me of what’s important every morning and every night. You teach me what the world sometimes makes me unlearn.
And it is undeniably the thing that makes me proudest of you.
At age 4, going into age 5, you make me proud because your greatest and most authentic happiness comes from the people and in the ways that the entire world is taking courses, setting reminds, seeing coaches and actively seeking to get back to.
Time. Attention. To and for. The people we love.
I am proudest of what you love, of the way you love, and how simply, easily and clearly you’re showing the world, what love means to you.
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.
I don’t remember the first time you said it. I do remember hearing it for the first time; and going absolutely bonkers.
We were doing yoga in the morning during the early days of COVID-19 and as we sat and talked about what the day held, what was going to make us happy, what was going to get in the way of our happy, what was going to be fun, and what was going to get in the way of our fun; in the midst of that logical juxtaposition of what you want, what you control, what gets in the way, and of that, what you control, somehow we stumbled upon “history”.
Your sister spoke first. And as her usual, eloquent and loquacious self, found a way into a spotlight where there wasn’t one, and then proceeded to find a way to own it.
What were you going to do? You were still a couple months away from knocking on 4’s door and here she was, the love of your life, your role model, choosing to go first in expressing her gratefulness in the morning leaving you to follow?
Was that even fair?
Do they have Mike Birbiglia open for someone who’s trying standup for the first time? You know?
She wasn’t better by design; only by years. At this stage in your life she’s got 50% more experiences than you do. It’s not reasonable to have you follow.
You let her roll. But your lips started turning up at the corners.
And when she finished, you dropped your greatest line and now the way I plan to talk going forward in celebration of amazing things always:
“The best in the whole history.”
It’s so perfect.
It encapsulates you.
It’s succinct. Never take 12 words to say what you can say in 6.
It’s powerful. Never leave doubt on how you’re feeling at the moment.
It’s uniquely generous. Never just give, give in a way people haven’t experienced before.
It’s memorable. Never be forgettable, by choosing to be, say, and do things in unforgettable ways.
It’s sincere. Never fake anything. Ever.
It’s on your sleeve. Never wear anything in your heart or mind, that you wouldn’t wear on your sleeve too.
I love you. You are my absolute and undeniable homie.
I’ve never felt so comfortable expressing my love to someone. Even your sister, at some point, is like “Buhboo, you can’t love me this much!” But you? Naw’man. You? You escalate. When I tell you that you’re the best kid in the world.
Well; you tell me I’m the best buhboo in the history.
A few hours ago you were three; now, at this moment, you’re four. Even you’re reading changed from yesterday to today!
This video doesn’t exist
You will never be three to you again. But I want you to know, to me, you’ll always be …
…a little bit of you at one…
…a little bit of you at two…
…a little bit of you at three…
…a little bit of you at four … and I’m so excited to learn about what that means.
The world. We included. Did a lot to you this year. You switched schools a few times. You moved from your Nana and Naniji’s comfortable daily love to a new home without them. You faced COVID-19. You got scratches. And bruises. On your face, your arms, and dare I say and admit, your heart.
You had people debating you when you weren’t there to be.
But every single day I look at you and I’ll say, man, given what the world and we included have thrown at you, you’re so…damn…good.
We owe you more and we owe you better.
People rise and fall to the expectations you set for them, son.
You’ve called each of us the best in the history. It’s our job to rise to that level and I’ll tell you, we’re getting after it.
As for you? Today You Make Me Proud Because of how real you are; and how wonderful you can make the world feel. You have a gravitational pull that isn’t based on mass (that’s me).
As you step into 4 and build on what’s before, I am so proud of who you are fighting to become every day; and I’m more excited about the kid I’m going to be talking about going into 5.
I love you, homie. You truly are incomparable; you are the greatest son in the history.
PS: This year I made you gummy animals for your birthday treat; the ones filled with NERDS are INCREDIBLE! We even made you a dragon one as a primer for How to Train your Dragon: The Hidden World!
But going back to that whole “best in the history” thing we were talking about; you see, 3 days ago you woke up one morning, and when we were getting ready for breakfast you did this dance asking me for gummy bears.
Yeah. Gummy bears.
What’s funny is 2 days earlier I had decided I was going to make you Gummy Bears, ordered all the stuff, and it was on the way.
So I am wicked happy you’re going to have Gummy Bears on your birthday, homie.
And even moreso, that you proclaimed your craving for them while wearing a shirt that would have made JJ happy in pursuit of the Goodest of Times.
But, I’ll tell you, I’ll be as busy as a one-legged cat in a sandbox if one of the greatest moments in my history as a Buhboo (aka father), isn’t the fact that I tapped into your Gummy Bear longing days before you did …
…and then delivered on it.
We got 2020, homie. We got it; because we got each other.
I love you. And all you’re becoming. And all you’ve been.
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.
And I get to brag that you turned one in my arms. (Note: I put you back in your crib peacefully a second before posting this. You probably woke up and faked some tears so I could have this moment and story to tell.) HBD, Jaanu!
This, by the way, was how you woke up. Not so bad, huh?
This video is incredible. Because you were such a chill baby for so long, but as soon as we got to food, your true personality came out. And all that chill you gave us the first 6+ months we know, was to keep us off-guard and let us know, we were in for a surprise.
FWIW, your Naniji and your Dadiji totally called it.
There’s no advice here. You knew what you wanted. Dadiji to feed you. And your Dadaji took it in stride because, frankly, if your sister had her choice of person to feed her we all know she’d choose your Dadaji. (True story.)
This is the kind of video we’re going to love for years; and it’s the kind of video I’m going to share with all your teachers (and then significant others) — because this is the kind of stuff that’s just you.
Maybe this time it’s not about you as much as it’s about one of the most celebrated moments you’ll witness: someone getting married.
It’s incredible. I’m not sure how to help you understand it, but imagine one entire group of people, meeting and loving and enjoying time with an entirely different set of people, traveling far and wide, dedicating days and hours, eating dancing, singing, laughing…
…all because of you.
That’s what it feels like to get married and to bear witness to your own marriage. It’s humbling. The entire world and everything you’ve done, been up to that moment converges, in support and celebration of the most powerful love you’ve felt to date.
You? You took your Masi’s wedding all in stride. More “A” game, but I mean, how could you not be smiling this wide with all the love flowing around you?
You may have had a moment of hesitation at the outset, but you came around pretty quickly. And then, you were all in.
There are two people in your life you have absolute, undeniable responsibility for, from the moment you’re born. Your Mumma. And your sister.
I don’t want this to sound overly dramatic; I simply want to make clear the role you play in their lives. (Note: I have the same conversation with your sis lest you think there’s some slant or bias here.)
There’s a one month period every year where this will be more important than ever: January 12 – February 15. Why? Because you’ve got Anaiya’s birthday, Valentine’s Day, and your Mumma’s birthday coming at you faster than you’ll know what to do with.
Keep calm. Give hugs. Sit in laps as long as you can; and when you can’t any longer, sleep in them. That last one lasts forever; I know, because I still sleep in my Mumma’s lap.
You did a bang up job of it this year. You let them get whacky while you just smiled, and chilled, and hugged, and loved.
Sometimes, it can really be that simple. You found a way to make their day about them, but making sure you never made it about you. So young, and already, so wise. Keep it going, Jaanu.
And Happy Birthday, Mumma. Also, the house didn’t always look like that mess behind you. We’re moving soon.