Dear Toby, (3/16/15)
WOW, you are five years old! It’s been absolutely amazing. I cannot explain how much pride and joy I have in you. You are such an amazing son. I love you so much. The whole parenting thing is that I am suppose to provide for you. I’m suppose to love and nurture you. Make sure you eat right and stay out of trouble. Make sure you learn manners and get enough sleep at night. In truth son for as much as I do for you, you do so much more for me. You motivate me to become a better person, a better father. Your love that you have towards pushes me to do better. It propels me to be a better person. I know that you are watching me. Learning from me. Even though I interact with dozens of people each day, the most important person that I interact with is you. I honestly do not know what I would be doing or where I would be if I did not have your love motivating me to be better. The memory, thought, image in my head when I feel like giving up, saying something stupid or just losing it, is of you when you first see when I walk into a room. You pop your head up. Break into a huge smile. Then you hop right before you take off into a sprint towards me. You do it each time I pick you up from school, Nanna’s, your mom drops you off, and today when I showed up at your birthday party. So, did I spend a little too much for your birthday? Did i get one, two or three too many presents for you? Did I go out of my way to buy you the Angry Birds Transformers and visit no less than 4 stores and three websites trying to find them? YES. Here is the thing, all of that is nothing compared to what you give me each day. The motivation and love to do better, to be better. Even though you thanked me for your presents, I should be the one thanking you for everything you do for me.
Thank You Love,
Hey little man. Well I guess if you are reading this you probably aren’t so little. As always, I hope you are doing well. I hope things are good for you. I can only imagine what you are doing now. If you have a job, a wife, your own child. Maybe you are traveling around with friends. Maybe you are in school and hopefully studying. Who know?! I do know that no matter what I love you and I’m proud of you.
It’s been an interesting couple of months since my last letter to you. You had to be taken to the hospital because you had a severe asthma attack. It was pretty insane. You coughed and coughed. To the point in which you couldn’t keep food or drink down. You had a fever and you kept saying your stomach hurt. After a sleepless night for the both of us things finally calmed down. The aftermath consisted of a definite diagnosis of asthma and a host of allergies, including and especially horses.
The hardest part of all is that as a parent you do everything you can to keep you child safe. When you were in the hospital and I had too much time to think, doubts crept into my mind. Thoughts like “did I miss something?” “Should I have acted sooner?” “Could I have prevented this?” In the end though, the realization is that I can’t always protect you. I can’t always be around and watching over. It’s a tough realization to come to as a parent.
The realization is that I can do everything in my power and you could still be at risk of something. That I can keep a car from hitting you and watch you like hawk but a small particle of grass can mess up your breathing. It’s a humbling experience to realize that you can’t do it all. That a little pill that you chew up and swallow protects you better than I can.
I also realize this, that as of now I’m your provider. I pay the insurance so that we can afford the little pill that can protect you. That you still need me to open the little bottle and give you the pill and most importantly need me to remember to give it to you. I also realize that one day, probably like the day you are reading this, that you won’t need me for those things either. That you’ll be doing it by yourself. It will sadden me a little bit but I’ll also be proud of you.
Dear Toby, (6/21/14)
Hey son. Right now you are with Nanna. I miss you. I can’t help but think about you as I mill around the house. Pick up your toys, clean your room, push past your milk in the fridge. I can help but think of your smile as I look around the house. Your little smile is truly so contagious. I love it. I hope it will never change
Crazy word, change. It’s scary. It’s exciting. It’s mysterious. It’s inspiring. We’ve been through an incredible amount of changes in the past year. You have had to adjust to so much. I am amazed how you have handled yourself. I am so very proud.
The crazier thing is that there are more changes to come. Changes we don’t see coming and changes we can plan for. It’s tough. Some of the changes are small, so small you don’t really notice it. Like you growing up. Your shoes not fitting or your ever expanding vocabulary. It’s incredible. Then there are changes that will hit us like a ton of bricks. Ones that come out of nowhere and we have to simply adjust on the fly. Those can be the hardest. The life changing changes.
So far my awesome little guy you have done an amazing job adjusting to the changes. The small ones that come with growing up and the bricks that have come your way. When you are reading this know that you will still have changes coming your way. They’ll be scary, exciting, mysterious, inspiring, painful and wonderful. In the end though, we can’t escape the changes. Do what you have been doing, simply adjust and keep smiling.
Dear Toby, (5/27/14)
First and always, I hope you are doing well. I hope that when you are reading this you are happy. However, if you’re not that’s ok too. As terrible as times can look it’s not the end of the world. You have an amazing spirit of determination.
I’m privy to that determination on regular basis. Tonight was an excellent example. I had softball practice and you came with me. You played with your best friend, Caden. Of course you got dirty and loved every minute of it. Then it was timed to go home. I politely informed you that when we get home you were getting a bath. For whatever reason, at this age you hate getting a bath. You cry, yell and argue just about every time it’s time for a bath.
We finally get home after you arguing with me the entire way home. I pull you into the bathroom. Still you cried and argued. I stripped off your clothes and still you argued. I plopped you into the tub and still you cried and argued. I pretty much held you up and bathed you while you cried and protested the whole time. You stopped crying and arguing when I pulled you out of the tub and dried you off.
In this little moment I think there are a couple of lessons. The first is that when you, my crazy little man, have your mind made up you don’t give in. I honestly blame myself because I’m the same way. Your stubbornness is both a blessing and a curse. There are times in which you have to be stubborn and not give in. There are other times in which if you don’t give in, well then you’ll end up being the stinky kid at school. The other lesson is pretty simple, I won’t let you be the stinky kid at school.
Dear Toby (4/1/14),
Hey little man. First off I hope that you are well when you are reading this. Every parent wants their child to be happy and free from strife but I know too well that’s almost impossible. I think that the very best one can hope for is that their child is well. By well I mean of a sound mind and body and that you have the capabilities to deal with whatever comes your way. It’s been pretty amazing to watch you grow up so far. As of right now for being a four year old, you my son are well.
I was thinking earlier today about the fact that I haven’t had to put you in time out in a very long time. No spankings or even the threat of one. It’s pretty amazing. I’m not so naive to think that I won’t ever have to put you in time out again or even give you quick smack to your butt but it’s pretty incredible to see how you have “matured”, as much of as a four year old can be mature. In essence, I’m proud of you. I’m proud of the fact that time outs in school have been less and less recently and proud of how you have handled all the “Toby shuffling” that happens between your mother, Nanna and I.
I know that hard times will come. That if you live long enough on this earth that life will have some very hard moments. That if you let these moments take control it can lead to a very hard life. You my son are well. You are capable of handling whatever comes your way, no matter how great the strife. When you eventually handle the strife that finds you, I know I’ll be just as proud then as I am now. Stay well my son.
Dear Toby, (2/18/14)
Today we came home and I had to shovel our way into the driveway. You did a great job sitting in the car and waiting. I would look up from shoveling and see you watching me. When we finally got inside I asked if you wanted to go outside and play. Of course you said yes. I changed your clothes and sent you out.
As I was changing I heard this scraping sound coming from outside. I quickly got dressed and came outside. I saw you trying to shovel the drive way. You had picked up the big shovel and started to work. I came outside and you didn’t even notice me come out. It was an amazing thing to see.
What you must know is that when you 16 and I ask you to shovel the driveway and you decide talk back to me I’ll bring up this incident and this picture! I’ll tell you this story like a nostalgic parent, fake maybe a tear, and guilt trip you into shoveling the driveway. I’ll do this every time, no matter how much you roll your eyes or tell me you heard it a thousand times before.
Someone asked me tonight how long ago my STBX (soon to be ex) and I have been separated. I thought about it for a moment and realized that it was about this time last year. Then I realized that I knew how to find out the exact date. When my STBX and I decided to separate I wrote my first “Dear Toby”. It was a couple of months later I started my first blog. However, it was in that first “Dear Toby” that I realized that blogging/ writing out my thoughts and feelings could be something that I could do and should do.
The first “Dear Toby” is something that I never thought I would share with anyone other than Toby. However, I reread that first “Dear Toby” and realized that as my readers, friends and family you have read post after post about me being a single dad, the lessons learned from being a parent, have traveled with me through angst and circumstances. For that I am eternally grateful. The comments and support have been amazing. I am always caught off guard when someone comes up and says “hey I liked your last post” or “I enjoy reading your blog”. I’ve always imagined this post to be a reflection of me and who I am. To keep in line with that; the following is the first “Dear Toby”:
Dear Toby, (1/22/13)
Today I’m pretty sad. I would hope that my first entry to you would not be a bad one but a joyful one. However, as most human beings I find myself contemplative in times of distress. Your mother and I last night decided to separate with the intent of getting divorced. I want to let you know that this separation is not because of you or that you are the cause of it. Even the beginning of that last statement is a complex. We are separating and you have a big part in it. We are currently not happy. We love each other but we are not friends. We don’t hang out and we don’t want to do things with each other. We both understand that wanting to be with each other should be a huge part of a marriage. With that said we also understand that we could push through this and try and maintain our previous course. The consequences of that would be huge. We would be rolling the dice on developing resentment and anger toward one another. Even if one of us is unhappy, the effect that it would have on our family as a whole would be devastating, more importantly the effect it would have on you would be devastating. We both love you too much to risk putting you through that. One thing that I have learned through my job is that parents cannot hide their issues from their kids and if they try then it makes things worse for the kids. In the end if your mom and I are happy in our lives then we will be better parents to you. If we are unhappy then the chances of us passing that on to you becomes great. Again, we love you too much to do that to you. I love you son. You are an amazing person and have enormous potential.
Dear Toby, (12/12/13)
You got into trouble today. I picked you up from daycare and the teacher told me that you got into trouble for pushing. She said that when she told you that you don’t push friends, that your excuse was “but I push my dad”.
The phrase “Do as I say, not as I do” comes to mind. “Don’t push your friends, but I can dump you on the couch and knock you over with my feet.” It sounds so hypocritical, let’s be honest, it is. It’s difficult to find that line between playing around and not teaching you bad habits. It’s hard to establish boundaries and not let you pick up on my bad habits.
I know that over the next dozen or so years that you’ll pick up on many of my bad habits. I just hope you pick up on the good ones as well. When I really think about it, this was really only the 2nd “bad” day out of this whole school year so far. I think that this has to be a pretty good track record.
Hopefully by the time you are old enough to read this, you’ll have learned from my bad habits and picked up on some good ones. I’m sorry that I basically got you into trouble.
Dear Toby, (11/21/13)
Tonight you have driven me insane. The messes that you have made, the chaos that you naturally create, and then add to the fact that you honestly believe that you mom is coming to get you tonight. It’s a double edge sword. Do I let you believe that she is coming and then when she doesn’t come you realize and melt down or do I keep correcting you and each time I do you melt down because you believe so strongly that she is coming??
I guess the only thing I can do is tell you the truth. A truth that you’ll grow up with. A truth that right now is impossible for you to understand. The truth is we both love you but we can’t both be around at the same time. That chances are when you are with her, you’ll want to be with me. That when you are with me, you want to be with her. That it will be hard and it will probably get harder before it gets easier.
The good news as much as you believe right now that momma is coming to get you tonight, I believe in you more. That I believe in you ability to overcome this. That not only do I believe in you but I also believe in the love that your mother and I both have for you. That my son is the truth.
Dear Toby, (9/23/13)
I just put you to bed once again. When I told you I would lay down with you for a minute you said “great!” Honestly, that’s the first time I’ve heard you use that word on your own. It’s great to watch you grow up. Seems like every day you learn a new word or you fit a word into the right contexts.
Tonight you were a little sad. When I asked you what was wrong you said you were afraid of zombies. Parents always wonder what their kid might be stressed about or worried about and it’s things like zombies and where your latest toy is. It seems trivial to us but it’s so important to you.
I told you I would take care of you and keep you safe from the zombies. Honestly, that seems like the only thing I can keep you safe from. This world is unpredictable. It’s harsh and it can be cruel. You’re only three right now. I can protect you from zombies and monsters that aren’t real. It’s the what’s real that scares me. Things I won’t always be able to protect you from. The best that I can do is shield you from some of this realities and let you just worry about zombies and monsters for a little while longer.