Letters

How is it that three years can fly by so quickly? This coming January the boy will move beyond the "terrible twos" and reach the minimum age for kindergarten, meaning he gets to start half-days in February before moving to full days1 in April, the official start of the school year. At school he'll learn new skills, new behaviours, make friends, and interact with the world in exciting new ways. Reiko and I will still be very much involved in his upbringing, but he'll also start to take cues from his peers who will let him know when he's being a jerk.

Up until a couple of years ago, I used to wonder why our childhood is so long compared to other animals. Young people are generally dependent on their parents for almost two decades and generally go out into the world as dumb as a brick despite the education the world provided. It's not until we're closer to 30 that many of us actively start contributing to society in a meaningful manner, using the expertise we've gained with one or more skills to solve complex problems. However, as I watch the boy attempt new things and as I see him hone nascent sets of skills, I can see a number of advantages to a long childhood. There is the safety net from family and the community at large, of course, but there is also the opportunity to better absorb the lessons from previous generations. This would often be the why behind a preferred behaviour or action. Young people will continue to ignore advice and make the mistakes people warned them about, but these same people will often incorporate some of the lessons from an elder's mistakes in order to avoid the same potential consequences.

Or, this is the general idea.

Being the man I am, I've made more than my fair share of mistakes. I've paid for most, avoided consequences for some, and learned from them all. My son will undoubtedly do the same, just as humanity has done for thousands of generations. However, I'm also trying to offer the boy a chance to learn more about the poetic justice of cause and effect, respect, love, and compassion. This is done whenever it's time to learn a lesson and it's also part of a little project that I've been working on for three years as of today.

On November 11, 2016 I started writing what has become a collection of letters to my son. Back in 2016 he hadn't yet had a name, so every letter starts out with "Dear Son," and runs about as long as most of the blog posts I write, which is about 600 words. A few come close to three thousand and two contain fewer than a hundred. All of them contain bits of knowledge that I've learned over my 40 years. Some of it is first-hand experience. Some of it came from my father. Some of it from my father's father. While I doubt he will read the entire collection before he has a family of his own, I'm hoping to present him with what will undoubtedly be a careful book of experience before he ventures out into the world on his own as a young man.

I want him to make his own mistakes and learn from them, of course. I just want him to make better mistakes than I did. If nothing else, this book will be something he can look back on to see how even though the times have changed, people have not.


  1. By "full" I mean 9:00am to 2:00pm … which is probably a full day for the teachers who have 20+ energetic children to educate.