*Many of you asked about Andrew’s reaction to our big baby news, and so I asked him to write something over the weekend. And as it turns out, it only emphasized my belief that he will be the best dad ever.
When I first moved to Boston it was to help my older brother open a bakery. Those first few years I was here, he did so much to ensure I was okay and adjusting to life in New England. He helped me find a place to live, gave me a car to use for a while, and included me socially. The move to Boston changed my life and I felt indebted. So even though I didn’t have a lot of money at Christmas the first year I was here, I wanted to show him how much I appreciated all that he had done. So I gave him and his wife 1-year of date nights. Each week, for 52 weeks, I would babysit my 2-year-old nephew so they could go out. It was the right price for me and priceless for them. What I later realized was that it was priceless for me too, especially now as I prepare for being a father to a son.
My relationship with my nephew Jackson, who will attend Harvard this September and has now publicly stated on Facebook that he will return the babysitting favor, will always be a special one for me. And perhaps a blog for another day. But Jackson is one hell of an impressive kid and if I can do half the job of raising our son as my brother did, then I will consider it a great success. In fact, Johnny (my brother) did a pretty good job of raising me a little too. And it began with the framed copy of If by Rudyard Kipling hanging on Jackson’s wall as a kid. It was the first time I actually read the poem and I have read it hundreds of times since. I have referred to it as a guide and as motivation throughout my life. If I can raise my son to live by one set of rules it will be this these:
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
As I come to grips with the fact that I am a) going to be a dad and b) to a boy, I am consumed with how to be a role model. I am fortunate to have examples all around me of great fathers including my own, my brother, my father-in-law, and many cousins and friends who all seem to have the knack for fatherhood. I think I am going to join those ranks. My job, as I see it, is to instill basic values and principles from which he can make his own decisions. For me, this poem is a perfect jumping off point for little William Wallace Gates (not his real name because Erin refuses to let me name our son after Braveheart, which is ridiculous).
The balance between trying to teach my son everything and letting him learn for himself is going to be the hard part. To let him fail and feel that failure so that he tries harder next time, but isn’t afraid of it either. To build him up with confidence but not to a point where he is delusional or arrogant. To show him the joy in playing outside, playing sports, and playing with his friends. To impart a curiosity so that education is not a chore, but a journey. To show him the wonder of travel and exploring the world. To teach him to set unattainable goals for the sheer pleasure of pushing yourself beyond your limits. To see the silver lining, the half full glass, and the rose colored world without being naïve. To love early and often so he can be ready to love fully and forever. To keep a diverse set of friends so he can find and appreciate the good and the interesting in all of us.
On or about November 15th, our lives are going to change forever for the better. As much as I worry about being a good father, I spend an equal amount of time looking forward to all the little moments he, Erin and I will get to share together. I can already picture his first words (“Dad” of course), his first steps, his first day at school, his first game, his first school play, his first love, his first awkward dance, going off to college (or going online to college…you never know in 2034 what is going to be the norm), getting married and having kids of his own. William Wallace’s (note from Erin: Stop calling him that! It’s not happening!) life is flashing before my eyes and it has only just begun. I knew this was going to be a special time but I had no idea. I am already so full of love for the little guy I can’t imagine how tomorrow it will grow. But I know it will.
I cannot wait to be “Dad”.