Moontower Munchies #22
If you’re in a rush (and you should be, it’s a frickin random Wednesday in America), here’s the useful part of the letter — a link:
Proof You Can Do Hard Things (3 min read)
I replied to Nat saying I agree with this post 110%.
From My Actual Life
If you have more time, maybe your feet are asleep while you’re sitting on the throne, I’ll share some personal stuff.
It’s my 45th birthday. My brother-in-law and I are taking the 4 kids to the Peterson Auto Museum in LA and the rest of the family will join us at Medieval Times later. I haven’t been there since I was a teen in NJ and I haven’t even thought about that place since the kid in Garden State bumbled into the kitchen in a clanky suit of armor.
Past a certain age, I feel like many serious people find caring about your birthday to be a red flag or uncool unless it ends in a zero. I shared that point of view until the last few years. But as you get older, people you’re age start dropping. And downplaying “just making it another year” is like making faces at a tiger in the zoo. Why fuck with him just because he looks far away? In short, if you wanna be stoked about your birthday, be stoked. Tomorrow is never guaranteed.
Still, I don’t make a big deal about my birthday. I appreciate the texts and so forth but I’m also relieved when it’s over. But today’s is a bit sentimental. I alluded to it on Sunday, but tomorrow my oldest turns 10. I wrote him a letter when he turned 5 that I’ll have him open when he graduates high school (I remember that time vividly because it coincided with a meteor shower so big even I heard about it…we laid on a blanket in the backyard as I pointed out shooting stars rambling about things that I stuffed in that letter.)
Last night I wrote him a letter that I’ll give him tomorrow. I’ve said it a lot, but parenting quandaries often pit preserving innocence against preparing for reality. It might be a selfish statement because “preserving innocence” feels like it’s for my benefit more than theirs. Like lying to your kids about Santa. Wonder and magic are fun. And we let it slide as long as we don’t think we are turning Junior into Peter Pan. Anyway, the letter just came out naturally. I didn’t want it to be a chore. But when I proofed it, I realized just how central that quandary between innocence and preparation sits in my consciousness.
I appreciated when Morgan Housel published the letter to his son about money matters. This letter to my son feels like a bittersweet bridge between 2 decades.
On July 12th 2013, my 35th birthday, mommy gave me a very sweet gift. It was a keychain with the Scrabble letter “Z” on it.
A 10 point letter representing the big event that was about to happen. We were packing our things to go to the hospital that night to have you.
(That might sound funny and it kind of was – the doctor told us to call the hospital that day to see if it was “busy”. Like it was a restaurant or somewhere we could just make a reservation. Well, it was not busy and they told us to come in to be induced – that means they give mommy some chemical called pitocin which makes you want to leave the womb and come out to finally meet us.)
Well, you had plans of your own. Maybe kick mama in the ribs for ole time’s sake or maybe you wanted to eat from your belly button one last time. Or more likely – you just wanted your own birthday. Well, your stubbornness paid off. The doctors took you out the next day.
And it’s been 10 years. 10 Scrabble point years – since the best day of my life.
You have given me so much joy. So much laughter. You even teach me. You’re probably wondering how you, just a little kid, teach me, a grown-up. You’ll be surprised how much you have taught me.
You’ve taught me about being happy.
The way I describe you to others is by explaining the amazingly rare quality you possess – you are happy wherever you are. Sure sometimes you're tired, sometimes you're bored, but you are always so ready to laugh. You are so easy to get a smile from. This magical power might be the greatest gift you or anyone else can share with their fellow travelers through life.
You teach me to not judge.
I never hear you say a mean thing about anyone. And at your age, I hear some of your peers express negativity or judgementalness. But you have such a spirit of inclusion and positivity. I remember one time when you explained that someone at school said you had a unibrow. You were in the back seat and I was driving. My face dropped but I knew you couldn’t see it. I nervously asked you how that made you feel. I braced myself for your sadness. It never came. Somehow this beautiful 8-year old boy, who took a pause to think before sharing his answer replied “it made me feel special. I’m different”. You got that right dude. You are different. You have no idea how special you are. Some people will try to knock that out of you. But you have my permission – never let them.
You teach me about courage.
You’re a talented boy. But lots of people are talented. It’s nice to be born with special gifts but it doesn’t define you. Being smart, or athletic, or funny, or even kind won’t mean much if it doesn’t come with courage. With the nerve to do the things that are hard to do. To try things that you know you’ll struggle with. To stick up for people who can’t stick up for themselves. To do the right thing when nobody is looking. Those times when you are alone are little tests. The grades you give yourself will matter more than the grades any teacher, parent, coach or boss can give you. You might not understand this now and that’s ok. Your actions already show the kind of heart I’m talking about.
The times I was proudest of you had nothing to do with you being the best. They had to do with you showing courage. The day at Harriet Plummer when I first saw you swim across the whole pool. When you didn’t panic after getting stuck on the treetop adventure, meanwhile I was down on the ground crying on the inside for you.
When you joined SportsStrong basketball practice mid-season in 4th grade and were thrown into a 5-man weave which you had never seen before. It was the first drill, there was no instruction, and everyone else had done it many times before. The whole practice would proceed like that. I was sweating for you in the stands knowing at your age I would have broken down. Heck, I was confused just watching the practice. And you maintained your composure through the entire hour, only to let your emotions out when you got in the car.
And remember what I told you? This was going to be hard. You were going up against kids that had been playing together for months. Why would you expect to be good on day one? The fact that it was difficult was not new information. There was no reason to take the struggle as a reason to be discouraged. Like anything new – we expect to suck at it.
You had the courage to trust me. To believe me when I said it would get easier. And it paid off. I give you so much credit for trusting me and pushing through the discomfort of those first few practices.
That lesson will always serve you. Do the hard thing. Confidence is like the hull of a ship. If the hull is built with a wide foundation of endurance it will be rock solid. Endurance has nothing to do with your talents or lack of talents. It’s your will. Your persistence. It’s the difference between sinking and sailing when the wind gusts get strong. Don’t build your confidence on a narrow hull of only things that come easy to you. If those things become unimportant you’ll feel lost. But if you believe in yourself to persist through what’s hard then nothing will shake you for long. You’ll always feel like you can steer. Remember the Vasa in Stockholm. That beautiful, fancy, expensive warship was flashy but not sturdy. If you never challenge yourself, you’ll never truly trust that you can get out of the harbor.
What mommy and I try to teach you
Mommy and I can sometimes sound like a glitch in a video game repeating the same thing over and over. You know our most important values. And like I mentioned earlier, you do a great job with some of these. But I’m going to write them down for you here followed by a simple promise:
The promise: if you ever feel lost it’s because one of these is broken. It’s like the systems in Captain Sonar – you can’t take the action you want because there’s malfunction in 1 of the 4 components in the circuit.
You’ll feel sad or confused. Perhaps you were unkind. Maybe you were selfish. There will be times when you feel jealous – that’s you forgetting to be thankful. Don’t worry about what others got, be grateful for what you got. It’s impossible to be bitter when you cloak yourself in gratitude. Sometimes you may feel guilty. That comes from being dishonest. Maybe you lied. Maybe you didn’t try your best – when you give a half effort that’s called “lying to yourself”. And the last one courage – that’s the one that will malfunction the most. When you fail to apologize because you’re embarrassed – that’s a lack of courage. When you don’t ask a question because you don’t want to stand out – that’s a lack of courage. When you let someone make your friend, or cousin, or teacher feel bad and it makes you feel bad – it’s because you didn’t show courage. If you stood up for them it might still hurt – but you won’t be alone. You’ll have the love and respect from the people you actually want it from. You’ll never regret having courage.
When something feels wrong, check in with those 4 values. Which one of them are you not honoring?
Ok, I didn’t want to turn this into a lecture. I know this was a long letter. It’s your birthday and there’s lots of fun things to do. You probably rushed through reading it. I understand. Do me a favor – come back to the letter every now and then. The words will be the same, but you will be different. And you will be happy to re-read it. It’s kinda like the basketball practice – you just need to trust your dada on this one.
Zak, 10 years ago today was the best day of my life. Nothing in my 35 years on earth could have prepared me for the first sound of your voice when they lifted you crying out of mommy’s belly.
To the moon and back, I love you,
I was invited to be a part of the Substack Meetings beta. You can book a time to chat. I’m more expensive than a 900 number from 1988 and have a less sexy voice.
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