Your failures left a devastating mark on his life (and mine).
(You know who you are.)
It's easy to love a baby, everybody knows that.
And babies are hard. They cry. They need. They're always there.
It's easy to get angry at a baby, even if you're his father.
It's easy to ignore a baby, too.
You wanted to do right by your son, and I understand that.
What does 'right' mean?
Did it mean leaving him because you were no good?
Did it mean spending all that time at work earning money to put food on the table?
Did it mean being gruff with him when he did something dangerous because you wanted him to be safe from harm?
You don't know what it means, but you tried, at least you did at first.
As he grew, it was easy to lose sight of what was best for him.
It was far, far too easy to raise your voice at him when he had nothing to do with the real reason you were angry.
It was even easier to forget he existed at all.
I don't want you to think that I'm judging your behavior.
We're all human beings, even fathers.
We're selfish. We get tired of our partners. We cheat. We Lie. We hurt. We lose our tempers.
We have one too many beers.
We abandon the ones we are supposed to love.
I'm not judging you. Life is long and hard and weird.
But you need to know that when time, tide, your personal weaknesses and crumbling relationships made you decide to leave your son, you did more damage than you'll ever fully comprehend.
Boys are told to be strong. They fall down and scrape their knees, and we tell them they're fine.
Sometimes they are, boys are rugged.
But sometimes, they aren't.
I wish I could've been there to remind you to be good to your son. I wish I could have forced you to be patient and kind.
Because the way you treated him came back around when he tried to love me.
You see, when you decided to leave his mom and never come back, you helped him lay the foundations of the wall he built around himself to keep love out.
He thinks that wall will protect him from getting hurt.
But then, you'd know something about walls like that, wouldn't you? You've got pretty iron-clad ones yourself.
When you left him, he became the man of the house.
But he wasn't a man; he didn't know how to be one.
How could he know?
That's why even now at 21, 35, 41, 52, he's still just a little boy.
He can't love me because you taught him that love equals pain, hurt ... disappointment.
He can't love me because he sat in the backseat of his mother's station wagon while she drove around town trying to figure out which hotel you were holed up in with your mistress.
He can't love me because he remembers flinching when you screamed and lunged at him.
He can't love me because he remembers how you said he'd see him on Wednesday.
He can't love me because you never showed up.
He's seen what love can do, and none of it is any good.
You're probably nodding your head, because you agree that love hurts.
And again, I can't judge you for that.
Men have it easy, sure, but little boys do not.
You were a little boy once. You had a dad once. He was there, or he wasn't. He was kind, or he wasn't.
Whoever he was to you, that made you.
And you made your boy the man he is today. And you continue to shape him with your every action (or inaction).
No one is asking every dad to be father of the year, wearing Cosby sweaters while cheering a little boy at every baseball game.
We're just asking you to think about the kind of man your mistreatment will make.
If he's good, it will be in spite of you.
If he's kind, it will be because he's terrified of becoming you.
If he's happy, it will be a struggle every day.
If he loves, it will be harder than it should be.
I cannot judge you for your own misery and your drive to push him away.
But I can judge you for having once been a son to a father yourself, and letting this happen again.
End the cycle. It doesn't take much.
Be there. Hold your breath before you explode. Think about what you say and do.
Call him. Hell, text him.
You might never be the man you hoped you would be, but he just might and that is worth the world.
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