Note: There is a follow-up post to "Parents: Let Harvard Go" in the works. It will be published sometime this month. To the many people from around the world who commented, e-mailed, direct messaged, or reached out in some way, I want to say "thank you" for keeping the conversation about college admissions and teen well-being going. There is much more to say on this subject matter, so let's have another round of conversation soon. But first things first: my kids are my top priority, and I write birthday posts for them each year. Here's one for my second born, Dash, on this, his tenth birthday.
Today, you turn ten years old. As I looked in on you after you fell asleep last night, I marveled at your very existence in the very same way I did when you turned ten minutes old. You are such a force of nature that I cherish these stolen moments when I get to see you still. They remain rare, for you remain a two-speed machine: going and sleeping. In that way, not much has changed over the past ten years!
In searching for the words to pay tribute to you today, I thought about all of the things I wish for you as you approach adolescence (God help us all) and manhood. Here's what I came up with:
I wish for you to grow to be as strong, inside and out, as you can be, but I also want you to know that you don't always have to be strong. I already see you fighting back tears sometimes. Let them flow. It's okay for men to cry, and to be scared, and to show it. We are all vulnerable sometimes. Don't put up a front.
I hope that you're always brave, too, trying new things with zeal and taking (calculated) risks. Know, too, that when you're not feeling brave, that's okay. Always listen to yourself, and know your limits. We *all* have limits. Superheroes who don't have any are the stuff of fiction. You are brave enough however brave you are.
May your curious, encyclopedic mind always be filled with stuff about which you are passionate. This year, it's everything about every car ever. No matter how much schoolwork gets lumped on as you grow, I hope that you always have time to explore your interests through reading. Always, always, always learn what you want to learn in addition to what you have to learn.
I'd love to see you keep making things, too, whether it's our scientific experiments in baking, lego model "art cars," experimental shade structures, or anything else you dream up. It's a real skill to create and something for which too few of us make time. It'll be fun to see how you choose to feed this hobby as more things, like robotics clubs and coding classes, come available to you with age. Love what you do, Dash, now and forever.
Lastly, and most importantly, it is such a thrill to watch you love, most especially your big sister, but also me, and your dad, and our extended family, and the little bird we rescued last week, and so many living, breathing things that I lose count. You have this big, huge heart in this little-but-growing body, and it's always a worry of mine that the world will try to keep your emotion in check because you're male. Of all the emotions never to check, it's that one: love. Mama's very favorite quote is from Kurt Vonnegut, a great writer: "Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let the pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place." I hope that you always live and love like that, Dash: softly, and believing the world to be as beautiful as you do right now.
Your giggle is infectious. Your eyes, they always twinkle. I really could not have conjured up a sweeter, smarter, funnier son. You're just right. And now, you're ten. I can't wait to see what the next year brings. Just keep on being you, Dash. You're an amazing human being, and I love you to the moon and back.