A Letter to My Son

By Rob Huckins

You’re my only son. You occupy a place nobody else in this world can fill. I can remember the first time I knew you were going to exist, the moment I realized you would be part of my life, someday soon, and forever after that. I never really thought about having kids that much growing up. It was more an abstraction of something I thought everyone probably got around to thinking about one time or another. I was already past thirty years old when you came along, well into adulthood and fairly certain of who I was and what I wanted to do with my life. But then you changed that perspective. You still do.

I didn’t name you. Your mother did. And she picked a great name. I am grateful for that. I remember your first night in our house, the way I used to get up early in the morning, when it was still dark, and prop you up on my chest simply lull you to sleep any way I could. My chest often felt like it was being pressed by a pile of bricks but it was all worth it. We both slept. Just for a few hours. I changed your diapers. No big deal. Lots of Dads do that these days. I taught you to play chess. I showed you how to ride a bike. I took you to your first PG-13 movie when you were eight years old (it was the first Avengers movie so I feel OK about that). You loved it and to this day, I think that may have been among my top three or four movie experiences of all time because I got to see you really take a movie in for the first time, completely engrossed.

We’ve spent days in Boston that I’ll never forget. Fun days filled with strange and wonderful conversations you probably will never remember. But I will. Maybe you’ll do that with your own son someday. I hope you do. We rode the T and you made people break their cool, detached facade of no eye contact and smile watching you try to ride without grabbing any bar for support. I laughed and so did a lot of other people. We walked around in the cold rain one night on the streets outside our hotel looking for a place to eat when you finally suggested we just eat at the hotel. Yes. Good idea.

There was a long stretch of time where my job on Friday nights was to see what movie I could come up with that both you and your older sister would like. It was a serious challenge after I started running out of titles I knew. But you never failed to get up and dance to whatever end credit music was playing, your moves gaining more confidence and hilarity with each passing minute until you inevitably had both your sister and me laughing. I might remember this the most, your utter ability to put yourself out there for others to laugh and have fun along with you. Never let that part of yourself go. It will sustain you and others around you for a long time to come.

You built your own computer from parts that you ordered from money saved up on your own. I am still staggered when I think about your tenacity and drive to get that done. I was no help at all and couldn’t have been anyway. You were on your own. And you did it. You have a functioning desktop computer that you built on your own without any help from your parents or anyone else. That is a feat worth savoring, as much for me as for you.

The passion you have for life and what you are interested in deserves to be captured in a jar and never let go. This is your lifeblood and your passions will sustain you during your darkest and most desperate times. It will never let you down if you allow it to be nurtured properly. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. They are liars. If you want to do it, you can. You have all the tools necessary to do anything you want. I believe the work you will do in your life most likely doesn’t exist yet anyway. One time I said that to you and you replied “well, maybe I can be the one who makes it exist”. Exactly.

Here’s the challenge for you. You enter a world that is getting more cynical and smaller by the year, all of its inhabitants fighting over resources both necessary and finite. You were born in a part of the world that gives you a real fighting chance to make something of yourself and give life meaning. A life of true significance. Don’t waste that. And if you can, please take some people with you. It will give you life, too. Remember that people always come before things. The relationships you have with other people and effect you have on them will be your most significant contribution to this world. There is no doubt about this fact. Everything else is secondary.

You question so many things all the time. And that is a good thing. You wonder if God exists at all. You figured out the Santa Claus conundrum very early. I will not confirm or deny his existence. That is for you to decide for yourself. Don’t let anyone tell you to “be a man”. Nobody knows what that even means anyway. Be yourself. That’s enough. It’s OK to cry if you’re sad. It’s OK to be goofy and laugh at yourself. To hug someone. To tell people that you love them. To know things are wrong and say so. All these things are OK. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.

Your world will not be the same as mine has been. That just isn’t possible. And that’s OK. But you will find your own way just as I did. Please don’t let the world make you do things you don’t believe in. That’s not how great things are done. Most things in our history worth talking about happened despite most people saying they were either futile or wrong. I think you will do significant things in your lifetime. Life will be hard sometimes. People you love may disappoint you. You may love people who don’t love you back. Others may love you and you may not be ready for it. But be open to anything. Remember we never have all the answers no matter what we think or how smart we are. We just don’t. Life doesn’t work that way. Other people can always help us even when we think they can’t. Never undervalue friendships. They will sustain you during your lowest moments. Try to make enough money to live a good life but don’t obsess over it. You’ll find a way to eat and live under a roof somewhere.

One of the great tragedies of growing up is realizing the world can be a very cold and unforgiving place, one where even our best can sometimes fall short of being sufficient, that we can work very hard and still end up left behind. But not always. And that’s what you have to strive for at all times. Perseverance and resilience are the qualities I wish for you the more than anything. It’s more important than intelligence. It’s more important than ability. Those things will carry you far but will not be enough ultimately. But the other qualities will sustain you through anything. Remember that. Things are usually not as dire as you think and if you keep getting back up there will always be another chance. Keep getting back up.

The truth is someday I’ll be gone. And so will your mother. It will be a long, long time from now. But it will happen. And everyone else you know who is older than you will be gone someday too. That’s the way it should be. Hold onto your sister. She’s going to be the only person who will have known you your entire life. Support her and let her sustain you, too. You’ll need each other no matter where you are or what happens during your life.

No matter what, know that I love you. You are my only son. But more importantly, you are a kind and sincere kid who no doubt will grow into a good adult with qualities and characteristics I will be proud of and grateful you have. I am already proud of you. Be kind to those around you. They are trying to get through this world each day just like everyone else. And they might help you someday when you are down. Try to help those who can’t help themselves as much as you can. We all deserve consideration and validity for existing.

This is the kind of love that will sustain our world in the future. We can’t live without it no matter what we invent or build or create. It’s the one intangible we don’t control and can never really understand. But we need it. Badly. Love. Not just romantic love but just love for our fellow human beings. Please make sure you are contributing to that love. We have enough people trying to take it away. Go forth in this world and make it better, my son. Even just a little bit. It will be worth every effort.