An Open Letter

Dear Elena and Roman,

Your parents were not totally incompetent before you were born. We each made it through childhood and both of us graduated from college. We established ourselves as independent, self-supporting adults with friends, hobbies, and responsible jobs. We gave service, both in church and outside of it. After we met, dated, got engaged and were married, we had a good life. We doted on Jewel and went for walks on Sunday afternoons. We took interesting trips and made plans for our future. Most of the time, we felt no need to warn each other about minor details like when we needed to use the restroom. On car trips, we only rarely needed to carry a throw up towel or bucket with us. Often hours or even days would go by where we didn’t yell or shout in anger, and when we didn’t get enough sleep we had only ourselves to blame.

Now that you are in our lives, everything is different. The rate at which you oscillate between giddiness and tantrums is still shocking to me, even after three years of exposure and experience. You require constant attention, because when you are not demanding it explicitly I still need to watch you to prevent any imminent accidents involving you and that thing you’re climbing on, reaching for, or swinging around. As a result, I have moved further and further towards the edges of my own emotions, well outside the comfortable zone where I know that I have control of my feelings. I love you dearly, and every time that I carelessly and callously raise my voice and say No, Stop, or Don’t do that, I regret my tone immediately. It is hard to have to come to grips with my human frailty this way.

As hard as it seems at times, our life is actually extremely easy. We live near and are well-connected with many supportive family members and friends. We do not generally lose sleep over money matters; I have a stable job that pays well enough that we can have the things we need and even save a little without needing supplemental income sources, so your mother can stay home with you. For now, there are only two of you, with no prospects of new siblings in the immediate future. For comparison, when I was Roman’s age my mother was already six months pregnant with my sister. When I was about the same age as Elena, my parents moved across the country, away from their families and all that was familiar to pursue a career opportunity. Due to a terrible real estate market, they suffered financially for a long time. It must have been hard on them.

I have generally happy memories from childhood, and I hope that the blissful filter of innocence that protects most children from the adult world, the one that prevented me from seeing or understanding much of the stress that my parents must have constantly experienced, will remain with you for many years to come. I pray that the bitter moments in our relationship are overwhelmed by the good, and that when you remember them they do not take the dominant place, but are accents that give depth and perspective to your memories.

What we have done in this past year has gone right up to the threshold of being truly crazy. The ambition and scope of our adventure has dwarfed anything that your mother and I took on before you were born. We’ve lived in four and a half homes (soon to be five and a half), spread out across two different US states and one foreign country, for lengths of time measured in months–the most inconvenient unit of habitation. We’ve travelled to great cities and small towns, seen amazing sights and witnessed spectacles of sport. Many times we tried to do just one more thing at the end of a long day when it was clear that you were tired and ready to be done, and although you often voiced your displeasure at the circumstances, you always made it through and cheered up once things were restored to their proper order. We have done this together, all of us.

love,
Your Father

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