Part of what I do consists of MC and DJ work for events. I do weddings, corporate parties and Bar/Bat-Mitzvahs. I’ve been at it for 16 years and in that time, I’ve seen a lot. At a recent Bat-Mitzvah, while observing the behavior of some of the kids, I thought to myself: “I really hope Jacob is stronger than that at that age…” The specific details of the behavior that the kids were engaging in is irrelevant. It did, however inspire me to think about what I would want Jacob to know as a teen, so I wrote the following letter:
You’re not even 2 years old yet, but as I look forward to your life I’m filled with hope and wonder and excitement. I’m so excited to be there for all of your milestones – from your first day at school, to your first date and beyond. I hope to be your confidant, mentor and friend on top of being your father. Make no mistake, I will always be your father first – we may not always see eye to eye, but know that I will always have your best interests at heart. I want to see you thrive and excel in life. I want you to follow your passions and never give up on your dreams. I also want you to be fully rooted in reality, and responsible, and I hope that mom and I can teach you and lead by example. After all, we love you more than you can possibly imagine. Trust me. You have no idea. One day, when you have a child (or children) of your own, you’ll understand.
As I look around and see the way that some people interact with each other, I’m honestly appalled. I’m also inspired by others. I know that being a teenager is difficult. It’s easy to succumb to peer pressure and do things that you don’t necessarily want to do in order to fit in. I’m hoping that you’ll look to your own inner guidance before doing anything at all. Believe me when I tell you that being yourself and being unique is as “cool” as it gets, no matter what other kids may try to tell you. There is nothing cool about picking on or bullying anybody. There is nothing cool about treating women like objects. There is nothing cool about being stupid – or pretending to be. Study hard and learn everything that you can. Follow your own path, for it is you alone who must walk it. Many people wake up after years of doing things the way that they thought others would want them to and realize that they were doing things all wrong.
Listen to that inner voice that tells you to do things even if you’re a little scared.
Listen even more to that voice if it says NOT to do something if someone is telling you that you should (mom and me excluded – you will still have to clean your room and do your laundry when we ask, regardless of what that voice says about it – incidentally, that voice will not usually have anything to say about household chores, so no need to worry about that here)
I know that as a teenager it may not appear to be true, but trust me, it’s cool to have your own opinions, beliefs and desires no matter how different they are from your peers. Who knows? Maybe by the time you become a teenager, this letter will be obsolete. Maybe by then, acceptance will be the norm and we will truly celebrate our differences? I can only hope.
I don’t know what technology will be like when you are a teenager, but I can only imagine. And regarding that, I hope that you will put down the technology and venture into nature as often as possible. Go hiking, play golf (I really hope that you enjoy golf, because I really want to play with you. We’ll bring your grandpa along too), be outdoors and enjoy nature. I see way too many kids with their hands and eyes glued to their phones. I will always say yes to playing with you outside, so just ask – even if we’re just gonna go for a walk. I’m in.
You are already so inquisitive and eager to learn whatever you can. I hope that persists. Ask us as many questions as you can think/dream up. If I don’t have the answers, we can look them up together. Please know that you can always talk to me and your mom – we will always listen to you without judgment. Know that we are also imperfect and flawed and though we are older than you, we are equally human. We are always still learning as well – no, we don’t know everything we just may know more than you do because we’ve been around longer. With that being said, you’re going to make mistakes, and that’s ok. As long as you learn from them. Believe me when I tell you, your mom and me have made plenty and will continue to – it’s not about the mistake, it’s about the lesson.
One day, we’ll have the “sex talk”. I’m honestly not ready to even entertain that thought yet. Not while you’ve just started putting together two-word sentences. No, I can’t think about the “sex talk” yet. I melt when you come up to me and grab my finger and say: “Dada, go-go!” and you pull me with you to play or read to you. I never get tired of it and I’m grateful for you every day. But one day, when we have “the talk”, I’ll tell you that there’s no need to rush. I’ll tell you that becoming intimate with someone is just that – intimate – it should happen when you have a genuine connection with the person and mutual respect for one another. You may experiment in other directions, and that’s ok too. I think you’ll come to find that the physical act is much better when feelings are involved anyway, and I trust your judgment.
Yes, I already trust your judgment because I can already tell what kind of person you are becoming.
Mom and I are grateful for you, and we love you.
We’re also really proud of you.
One day you’ll be a teenager, and I hope you’ll remember these words. We have time though.
Until then, let’s watch some more “Em” and “Woodn deen dee” (Elmo and words dvd – just in case you’re wondering how you used to say things…)