A Letter To My Son At High School Graduation
To Chase at his high school graduation,
You no doubt are wondering why your dad is turning into a blubbering baby these past few weeks. Tears flow at the slightest mention of one of the many precious memories that I have of you. And yes, I know, it's not like you're leaving forever and I'll never see you again. But there is a certain finality to this portion of your life with your graduation from high school. It means you're not a kid anymore. That's probably tough for you to wrap your head around sometimes. But for your parents, it is much more emotional.
You were the first. The first little person that made your mom and me parents. Scared, confused, without the slightest idea of what the heck we were doing. I remember your mom crying in the car as soon as we turned down our street coming home from the hospital. How were we going to keep this little boy alive? It is a fear shared by many first-time parents I'm sure. Fast forward to the middle of the night feedings and diaper changes. Rocking you back to sleep while falling asleep myself in the rocking chair. Being more tired than I thought was humanly possible. All of it was worth it the first time you smiled. Then you giggled. Then you laughed. Then you crawled, and walked, and said our names. Our little boy. What a precious gift.
There is a special bond between and father and a son. We did everything together. We played video games, watched sports on TV, and did I mention video games? I can remember you taunting teenagers while playing Call of Duty, telling them that "they were getting owned by a grade-schooler." Perhaps not one of my best parenting decision. You were my little goofball. We messed around and joked together. Your mom was probably giddy when your sisters arrived. She finally had some backup! I watched you become a big brother. You helped feed your sister Carly and willingly posed in pictures together!
And then began the transition that every parent knows is coming. When their kids begin to stop looking toward them, and more toward their friends. It's gradual at first. But by junior high Dad isn't 'cool' anymore. We tried to respect your space and still be involved as much as we could. But when high school rolled around, the opportunities became fewer and fewer. You were experiencing freedom for the first time. And you were testing the boundaries of the child-parent dynamic. You were beginning the journey of finding yourself, and that is a trip that can scare parents to death. What if finding yourself means leaving us? It is a selfish thought, I know. It is so hard to watch this little person you've known from their first breath, someone who is quite literally a part of you, begin to break away.
And in the midst of growing up and finding yourself, you've had to endure. You've been through injuries and surgeries. You've had teeth pulled and braces twice. And at times you've had to watch your parents struggle to make the right decisions too. As much as I wish, there is no such thing as a perfect parent. Your mom and I are both proof of that. While there are many things that I've set out to try and teach you, my hope is that you've learned a great many other things by viewing some of my missteps and failures. Some lessons are hard. But those are the ones that you learn from the most.
This past year, your senior year of high school, has been one of the best in recent memory. We urged you to do some things you won't have a chance to do again, and you did. You went to homecoming and two proms! And you finally went out for track. You were always one of the fastest kids in your class growing up, and you proved that you still were. I loved watching you run. The pride I felt when you hit your stride. It is the perfect metaphor for your life. You are now just hitting your stride, becoming the man that you are supposed to be. And just like track, the real reward isn't the medal. It is always striving to reach your personal best.
Son, I am proud of the young man that you are today. I wish you understood how much I love our little moments together. From conversations about classic basketball shoes to helping you put the cuffs on your tuxedo at prom. I hope that you can look back on your childhood and see it filled with great memories. I hope that you can forgive me for my shortcomings and understand that my love for you is unmeasurable. You are my son. You make me proud. Be kind and go out and make the world a better place. Because mine is perfect with you in it.