I don't need anything from you.

Dear Liam,

As you grow up, you may notice many of the parents of your peers are desperately seeking something from their children. There may be a dad whose dreams of a football scholarship were dashed by an injury, so he's constantly pressuring his son to perform in order to play for the college he himself never had the chance to attend. There may be a mother who got pregnant at a young age and felt forced into being a stay-at-home mom, and responds to her unfulfilled dreams by forcing her daughter into a high-powered career, regardless of what the young girl actually wants. Whatever it is, I believe parents often have a tendency to expect their children to make up for the mistakes they made when they were younger.

I knew a girl in college whose father was without a doubt the most insecure man I've ever met. He did his best to cloak it with bravado, arrogance, and a condescending tone, but men who are comfortable in their own skin have no use for such vices. He had dropped out of college, and even though he had a great career, nothing could hide his shame over not earning a degree. I witnessed firsthand how he channeled his shame into his daughter's academic performance. She was astonishingly driven in her studies, propped up by her father's praise and rewards any time she performed to his liking. Conversely, she was quickly rebuked any time she made even the slightest deviation from the plan he had laid out for her life. Her freshman year at college, she started dating her first boyfriend. When she told her father of her budding romance, he immediately yelled at her: "You'd better not let your grades suffer!" and hung up on her in disgust. He maintained his white-knuckle grip on the reins of her life.

Since my dad died at 32, I felt the need to somehow complete his short life. After all, I was named after him, so I figured it was my responsibility to complete his quest. I asked relatives about my father often, trying to learn more about him, but they rarely shared stories with me, except for when they wanted to manipulate me. I remember one time when I was 19 and excited about voting in the presidential election for the first time. When I told my aunt for which candidate I was planning on casting my vote, she became infuriated and told me my father would've never voted for that candidate and if he were alive, he would be ashamed of me for voting that way. The comment cut me to the core. When I was an adolescent and begged her to tell me stories of my father, she said the age gap between them was so large she didn't know much about him. Yet somehow she was 100% certain how he would've voted in the 2004 election, and wanted to make me feel as much shame as possible for not agreeing with her.

I don't give a damn if I agree with your politics or not. One of the reasons I couldn't bring myself to give you the same name as my father and me was I didn't want you to think for a single second you had to fulfill my dreams or the dreams of my father. I want you to be you, to be the unique soul God created you to be. Sure, we share some DNA, and I'll do my best to help you decode your genes and tell you of your heritage through stories of your ancestors, but I don't believe for a second I have the right to dictate your life to you. I will tell you my dreams, but the goals you choose will not affect how proud I am of you. I will share my faith with you, but my love for you will not waver regardless of what you choose to believe. I will confess my sins and mistakes to you in the hopes you won't have to learn the same lessons the hard way, but I will also be there to console you when you repeat my mistakes or make different mistakes of your own.

Does that mean I will let you just snooze through life, being lazy and unmotivated? By no means! You are a beautiful soul, Liam, and I already love your heart. I can see the similarities we share, but I can also see what makes you unique. I want to help you explore those traits, and I desire to assist you in discovering your true passions. There will be times when I push you, encouraging you to lean in a little deeper. There will instances when I question you, not necessarily because I doubt you, but because I want you to explore all the motivations behind your decisions. So in many ways I may look similar to all those other parents burdening their children with huge expectations. I will frustrate you, I will upset you. Yet my motivation will not be for you to redeem the sins of my past or complete some quest I failed. I will be driven only by my desire for you to see the beauty of your heart and for you to be the man God created you to be.

I love you, God loves you, and you've got what it takes.

Love,
Dad

I took you on Marta for the first time today, and you couldn't stop saying "train" with a big smile.


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