Right now you're sound asleep as the late morning sunlight filters through the curtains of your room. Normally I would use this nap time to get busy with chores or catch up on emails or whatever, but this morning I just feel like lingering here beside your crib. I want to savor these moments while they last.
Though so small now, I can picture you someday—maybe as a teenager or even an adult with a family of your own—reading these "Daddy Diaries" and getting a glimpse of what life was like this first year. It blows my mind a little to think that I'm not just writing about you as an infant, but also writing to you as a grown man.
The hardest part of being a father is not diapers or late night feedings or even holding you while the doctor sticks a needle in your butt (this really does hurt me more than it hurts you). But what weighs on me most is the responsibility I have to help you grow as a man, to mentor you into a person of genuine integrity and courage.
College degrees and career titles and athletic achievements are all good things, but without character, none of it matters. I've made a lot of mistakes in my life but I've also been shown a lot of grace and, just in case I'm not around as you're reading this, I want to pass on some wisdom to guide your steps.
I was in the 3rd grade when Monique showed up at school one day. While not abnormally so, this new girl was rather skinny with lanky arms and a thin face. By today's standards she might even be seen as a supermodel, but in the 3rd grade looking different was fodder for being teased.
Being new, Monique didn't have any friends and sat by herself at lunchtime. After recess, we were all standing in line to go back into class when a friend of mine pointed at her and shouted, "Hey look, it's Bone-ique!" All the kids laughed and began to taunt her with the cruel nickname. As they continued, you could see Monique physically close-in on herself, folding her thin biceps against her chest as hollow eyes stared at us from behind the long brown hair that covered much of her face.
I could sense just how alone she felt standing there, and I knew what we were doing was wrong. I would like to say that I had the courage at that moment to make a stand and tell my classmates to knock it off. I'd like to say that I had the character to talk with her and be a friend. I'd like to say all that, Gregory, but I am ashamed to admit that I joined in the crowd that day and laughed along with everyone else. I was scared that if I was nice to her I might get teased as well, and it was this insecurity and fear that kept me from doing the right thing. In other words, I was a coward.
That was thirty years ago and the look on her face still haunts me today. Monique's family moved away that summer, and I never saw her again. My hope is that she found the strength to rise above it all, but I'll never know if our meanness contributed to a poor self-image or perhaps an eating disorder or even something worse. I wish I could go back and talk to that girl, to apologize and let her know she had a friend.
The truth is we criticize or ridicule others in an attempt to feel better about ourselves, but it doesn't work. I heard a quote recently that I like: "Be kind, for everyone you meet carries a great burden." It's easy and often popular to criticize, but it takes real courage and a humble strength to get to know and care about people. Gregory, be courageous!