My son turned seven yesterday and I don’t know exactly why but I’m feeling this birthday more intensely. Maybe it’s the fact that he’s grown to more than half my size or that he’s the age when my life dramatically changed, but there’s something unique about this year of his life. I’ve been capturing my response to his life here on this site but to take a moment to unbox some feelings about it, I feel like I’ve gone past the point of what I understood parenting to be. The issues feel slightly more complex and nuanced. His needs are more complicated, if not more personal to just him. And whereas you enter a relationship with another human being on a decision-making basis (marriage, living together, what have you), this relationship transcends any of the choice you get in those kind of dynamics. You are their father. You are their mother. That will never change. Yet I don’t feel in any way trapped by this idea, though I do wish I could get more rest or knew what I was doing more of the time. I feel empowered by it. I feel duty-bound.
I wrote a little note to him. I hope he reads it one day, with kids of his own, and sees what I see. Because it’s just spectacular sometimes.
Dear Finn, you’ve entered what some call ‘the age of reason.’ As a newly minted seven-year-old, you are about to embark on a journey that makes your last six years look like preschool. Mostly because that’s what it was. I know there’s hardship and stress for you in the offing but I want you to know how much I understand and care about you. We were very similar personalities growing up. I was perhaps even a bit more sensitive than you are now. But I hope you remember that you can always come to me, ask me questions, and lean on me for support. Your mother carried you in the womb but I promise to carry you and help you grow outside of it for the rest of your life. Happy belated birthday, my son.