Lydia is a Super Mom, because she convinced me to become a Dad.
I read an article about school children practicing exiting their school. It wasn’t a fire drill, this was to prepare for a gunman roaming their hallways; the children were being trained to climb out windows and run. At first I thought, “How sad, that we have to prepare kids to live in such a world.” Many people commenting on the article felt the same.
But then I remembered my own childhood, and all I lived through.
My wife steered me to a news story that discussed babies, and brainwaves. Specifically, the focus was Russian children turned sociopaths. A study discovered that when orphaned at birth—depending on their circumstances—certain Russian babies would sit in their crib and cry, with no one coming to soothe them. If this crying continued for a particular number of hours over too many days, the baby’s brain waves were so affected by the trauma they shut down. They “learned” at a very, very young age to go neutral as a form of self-preservation. As they aged, the children were emotionally “dead,” with no concern for other people; they had no empathy in them.
After selling tens of copies of my first book, I had at least three people ask, “When is the next one coming out?” Three years and two months later, boom: new book.
Everything you are about to read was told to me first-hand.
Names and locations have been changed to protect the… well, I guess you’d have to say guilty parties. Or party. You can’t blame a toddler for what her daddy does.
Either way, nothing in this story involves me.
September 3, 2014
Like most good ideas under our roof, the project you are reading came from your mother’s mind. She saw a story about a parent writing letters to their infant and decided, “You should do that while you’re traveling. Write to Hilly and tell her where you are, and what you’re up to.”
(Because creating projects and pawning them off on me is what your mother does best.)
So, I did as I was told and wrote, wrote away.
From August 2012 to August 2013, I dreamt up and scribbled down letters to you, the topics of which are as varied as can be. Sometimes I wrote to you in the present moment, you being a toddler, sometimes I imagined an age far in the distance and wrote to you as if you were reading my words in your college dorm room. I wrote about our daily activities, milestones in your existence, and my life, the last of which being done in the hope you may forgive me my nonsensical ways.
It’s good I started at your first birthday, because to detail the first twelve months of any human existence wouldn’t be the most exciting of tales: “Today you ate, pooped, and napped. Repeatedly.”
Likewise, it might be best the writing has slowed now that you’re two, because the “Terrible” age kicked in quickly after your second birthday. It’s as if a switch was thrown, because you went from being my adorable little cuddle-bug to a tantrum-throwing monster almost overnight. Not that I don’t still love you, and you are still my little cuddle-bug, but my God, some days you are almost Sybil in nature, given how quickly you can flip temperaments. Plus, tales that perpetually end “and then you threw a fit” might be as boring as repeated poop/nap letters.
Anyway, as the year passed, I dropped a couple of the notes on my blog and holy poop-on-a-stick was the response overwhelmingly kind. People laughed, cried, and spread the words around, telling their friends, “Hey, you need to check this out.”
“So,” you might be wondering, “why not just post them all on your blog? Why turn them into a book?”
Because college is expensive, and I don’t have it in me to “Tiger Mom” you to death so you can get a great scholarship (and have no friends or life along the way). Also, to quote The Joker in one of my favorite movies, “If you’re good at something, never do it for free.” (Daddy has odd idols) For all of the above reasons, and the fact that I flat-out enjoy writing letters to you, this book came into existence.
Also, I’m not ashamed or embarrassed by anything in here. The letters are personal, but they’re not sensitive. Plus, given my ability to act the fool in public, I’m sure by the time you do read these you will have a thick enough skin to avoid being scarlet-cheeked by anything I’ve shared.
(Your teenage years will most likely play a great role in this “toughening up.” Teenagers are already sensitive; having a comedian for a father will probably lead you to eye damage from all the rolling you’ll be doing as I embarrass you. But, at the end of it all, you’ll come out all the stronger for it. Promise.)
With any luck, the pages that follow will help give you insight into what life was like in one of your earliest years.
I hope you enjoy it.
The book It’s OK to Talk to Animals, and Other Letters from Dad will be available online at both Amazon.com and Barnes&Noble.com in October.
(Several other letters are peppered throughout my blog; feel free to go searching for them.
Book cover designed by Lydia Fine.
Picture by Dreamday Photography.
March 17, 2014
…it was laundry time, and because you were a little under-the-weather emotionally—you wanted to be right next to me; needed a little “Daddy time”—you were sitting on my lap as I pulled clothes from the bin and threw them into our front-load washer. I two-armed a particularly large batch of items, and as I tossed them into the washing machine you started howling. You were off my lap and head first into the washer before I could react. Over the shoulder you threw item after item, digging deep into the pile of stinkables waiting to be cleaned.