The hardest thing to do, as a parent, is to let your kid go out into the world on his own, even if it’s just to to kindergarten. Dad and I may talk a tough game about loving that you guys are getting bigger, but if we’re honest, it’s pretty scary.
See, we were here before you. We remember when there was no you at all, and then one day we watched the teeniest flutter on a screen when you were just 9 weeks into being something other than ether. You were only a few millimeters long, but we already loved you.
And when you were born, you were a mysterious and helpless little lump who needed us so entirely that you weren’t even conscious of yourself as an entity yet. And that was a heady experience for Daddy and me. Never before had we known what it was like to create life, and suddenly you were here—both separate and a part of us.
Yesterday I watched you skip into school, eyes full of sparkle, so proud of your new glasses and haircut. We got you the same black Ray Ban frames that both Daddy and I wear, by far the coolest ones they had at Lens Crafters. We also got you a super short haircut just like the one Dad wears, so that your hair wouldn’t get in the way of your new specs.
All weekend long, our friends and family were enamored of your new look and told you how awesome you looked, how much you looked like Dad, so you felt really good about now being the second kid in your class with glasses.
But everything changed with one word from a boy in your class.
And your spark went dark.
“Mom, I thought ‘nerd’ just meant ‘smart’? Why did Billy say it to be mean?”
And so I explained it all to you. How some people think calling someone a nerd makes them seem cooler, but that nerds are the ones who do all the cool stuff that he loves. Nerds invented the iPad, discovered dinosaurs, have gone into space, and make the coolest movies. Nerds are the bosses, the ones who worked hard to get what they wanted, and who have the coolest lives as grown-ups. You liked the idea of inventing the iPad, and of making a lot of money, and making cool movies like Star Wars. But you were still hurt.
And so I told you about the people who love you. Jake, Kian, Bebe and Franklin who are your best friends, who think you look cool in your glasses. Your cousin Petra who considers you her most trusted friend. Your brother who wants to be exactly like you in every way. Your aunts and uncles who love you like you’re their own child, your grandparents and mom and dad who would step in front of a bus at any moment to spare you pain.
And I told you to tell that kid Billy to mind his own business and find something better to do than be a jerk. But I know you won’t do that, because you’re too sweet and you don’t want anyone to be upset. And there are also things I wish I could tell you that I know I can’t yet: That kids like Billy are messed up inside, that they have pain that is so great they don’t know what to do with it except be mean to other kids. That doesn’t give them a right to be mean to anyone else, but someone is hurting them, and that’s why they choose to be that way to you.
I can’t tell you this, but if you punched that Billy kid in the face, Daddy and I wouldn’t be mad. The fact that he took your spark of pride away from you makes him the lowest of the low in our book, and even though he’s just a kid, being knocked down a few pegs would serve him well.
I also can’t tell you this, but your dad has glasses and he got laid like crazy, well before he ever met me. I mean, more than you should probably ever know. He may have been the valedictorian of his graduating class, but that certainly didn’t stop him from dating the hottest girls.
I’m not saying that’s what you should do in your life, but if you can figure out how to adopt your daddy’s swagger, I guarantee you that kids like Billy are going to be tagging along after you, hoping to catch the tail end of the trail of women (or men, if that ends up being your thing) that will end up following you around.
And maybe you don’t want that, and will never have Dad’s too-cool-for-school aura or my big personality and no-bullshit attitude. That’s okay. We love you for who you are, and who you’re going to be. The truth is, we don’t always understand you. When we were kids, we didn’t like the same stuff you like, and for some reason we continue to be surprised that you’re not a carbon copy of us. You’re a sensitive, curious, goofy guy who at 8 years old loves reptiles, rocks and video games more than skateboards or surfing. But we see you for who you are, and we think that’s great. Even though sometimes we have no idea what you’re talking about.
And know that Mom and Dad and your family love you, and we think you’re one of the most awesome human beings ever to be put on this earth. And be assured that we will fight for you, for your happiness, safety, and sense of self, for as long as we’re alive. Because you’re worth it, just for being the kid that you are.
Follow @opnlttr For more letters like this, visit http://goodmenproject.com/families/hesaid-an-open-letter-to-my-son-who-yesterday-was-called-a-nerd/