Dear Jack: A Dad’s Letter To His Son On His 5th Birthday

5 years old!

Dear Jack: A Dad’s Letter To His Son On His 5th Birthday

Dear Jack,

Good morning. You are officially 5 years old today!

I’m so glad you are. The older you get, the closer our relationship grows.

The way I look at it is sort of like a good road trip. You have to appreciate the journey as much as the destination. As you and I both grow older and mature together as individual human beings, we also are able to know each other better as well.

Dear Jack: A Dad’s Letter To His Son On His 5th Birthday

Just today you were asking me about the first time you spoke “real words” to me and I understood them; and you understood me back.

You’re old enough now to where years have actually passed since those days of helping you learn to talk; back when many of your first words I taught you were vehicles we saw on the way to and from daycare each day.

“Jeep!”

“Mustang!”

“Dump truck!”

The older you get, the more I am able to appreciate our relationship and our time together.

Five years ago I was clueless on how to be a parent. I had to figure it all out together with Mommy.

These days, the guessing games and the related frustrations are gone. I know you now.

Granted, you’ve got a baby brother or sister on the way in April. This is your final birthday as an “only child”. And as for me, I’ll be thrown back into the mode of changing diapers and preparing bottles.

Imagine how much you will change, for the better, when you are Mommy and Daddy’s much needed helper!

I remember how surprised I was back when you were a newborn, having parents who are both of Italian heritage (and Mexican on my side), ended up with blonde hair and blue eyes.

And I also remember several people said your hair would get darker and your eyes would change color.

But you’re 5 now, and your eyes are still blue and you pretty much still kind of have blonde hair. You’ve made it this far still looking this way!

It still amazes me.

Happy 5th Birthday, Jack. I’ve got plenty more letters to write you and we’ve got plenty more growing up to do together.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: A Dad’s Letter To His Son On His 5th Birthday

Dear Jack: A Dad’s Letter to His Son on His 2nd Birthday

Dear Jack: A Dad’s Letter to His Son on His 3rd Birthday

Dear Jack: A Dad’s Letter to His Son on His 4th Birthday

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The Amount You Mature After You Turn 30

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This week I turned 34 and a half. I’m now just 6 months away from turning 35, which will officially toss me out of that targeted demographic which has traditionally been the coveted marketing demographic: age 18-34.

I’m also only 6 months away from the birth of my 2nd child; who I think is a girl.

Turning a year older is not something I fear or hide. I celebrate getting older. That’s mainly because I’m so grateful for the amount of maturity, emotional intelligence, and life experience I gain each year I’m alive.

I definitely don’t wish I was 30 again, or 27, or 25, or 23… I’m perfectly happy and proud to be 34 and a half.

And research shows the same thing; that the age people report being the happiest is 34.

By now, I’m married, I have kid(s), I’m out of debt, I have money in the bank, I “own” a home, and I’m stable in my career.

Additionally, I have (hopefully) already made my dumbest mistakes and learned my hardest lessons in life.

If I simply apply what I’ve already learned from life so far, I should be alright. In theory, I should be on auto-pilot, from here on out, to some degree.

I feel that while I’ll constantly be learning something new every day, my “life’s biggest learning curve” is complete. In other words, now I know what to do, it’s just a matter of testing that knowledge and experience for the rest of my life to see what else I can make of it.

When I turned 30, I knew I was hitting a major milestone. But in hindsight, I now realize that the reason it was a major milestone for me is because I have learned some of life’s biggest and most crucial lessons since then, during these past 4 and a half years.

The Amount You Mature After You Turn 30

My son was born just a few months before I turned 30. Obviously, raising him has taught me a whole lot about life.

Plus, I made some wrong financial and career decisions around that time as well; which ultimately led my wife and I to become the strict Dave Ramsey followers we now are.

Not to mention, I was hired as Parents.com’s official daddy blogger right after I turned 30, which ultimately meant for 3 years, I had to do a blog post daily; being encouraged to be controversial by my editors.

Therefore, I can see in retrospect that I sporadically said plenty of immature and/or now embarrassing things in my blog posts during that time in attempts to “better engage my audience.” I learned a lot from that experience and I’m completely grateful for those 3 years.

On top of all that, I’ve learned the hard way what not to post on Facebook, since turning 30.

But now, I’ve lived through all that.

And I’ve been married for over 7 years now. It would be an understatement to say that marriage, in addition to raising a child, has made me a more mature, less selfish, better balanced human being.

The first day of the rest of my life began the day I turned 30. I can only imagine how much more enlightened I will feel and be by the time I turn 40.

I Moved to Nashville Exactly 10 Years Ago Today

I Moved to Nashville Exactly 10 Years Ago Today

On September 11, 2005, I drove my 1994 Oldsmobile Cutlass to Nashville, Tennessee. (My blog was only a month old at that point.)

For the next several months, I would share half of an old duplex that smelled like old church cabinets, with a guy I barely knew. My job would be to load and unload trucks at Fed-Ex, while working with many men who, in hindsight, showed signs of drug use.

Every lunch and every dinner was the $1.99 tuna or meatball sub at Subway.

And I didn’t know anyone there in Nashville; I started from complete scratch.

The goal was to make my musical career happen here in the music capitol of the world.

That long haired 24 year-old version of me was very determined. Within a few months, I landed my first real job, at a trucking company, where I still work today, helping truck drivers financially manage their income.

But that version of me was also very inexperienced in life. I might even say that I was more optimistic back then.

I Moved to Nashville Exactly 10 Years Ago Today

Simply put, my inexperience of life allowed me to be more optimistic.

Now a decade later, with a wife and a son, I have become experienced in life.

I learned how to rise to the management level in my office. I learned how to manage money in my household. I learned how to be a helpful and supportive husband. I learned how to be a patient and creative dad.

And I learned these things the hard way. I don’t suppose most people really learn those things the easy way- is there any easy yet effective way to learn those things?

Over the years, I traded in my optimism for positive realism.

I learned to indulge in constructive criticism and to keep myself from being “offended” by other people.

I Moved to Nashville Exactly 10 Years Ago Today

Something else I learned pretty quickly is that if I ever began to believe I was “the victim,” then I definitely was.

Let me be clear, I am not the victim. I instead am built to find ways around the problem.

So if these are all things I learned, then who taught them to me?

I did.

One of my constant goals, since I’ve been a kid, has been to make sure that I am more mature in each passing year.

I am ashamed that just 2 years and a half years ago I broadcasted my vegan conversion over Facebook, displaying Internet memes that reflected my personal beliefs, yet stepped on a lot of people’s toes in the process.

That is so not me anymore.

It was a humbling (and privately, humiliating) experience and process for me; to realize  A) that my feelings and opinions caused a rift with people who knew me and B) that my feelings and opinions are ultimately irrelevant in the scheme of reality outside my head.

I needed that shock to my system. It got my attention.

I Moved to Nashville Exactly 10 Years Ago Today

From there, I stopped stating my opinions, feelings, and beliefs over social media; instead, eventually channeling my creative energy into making my own YouTube videos that I intertwine into my blog.

Not to mention, I am also able to implement my own music into my videos.

I’m at a good place in life. But I had to learn a lot of this stuff the hard way.

Had I simply maintained my own selfish attitude at any point along the way, I couldn’t have made it here.

I Moved to Nashville Exactly 10 Years Ago Today

So from here, I expect to learn more lessons the hard way; which is again how it seems to work.

Granted, the experience I’ve gained now will greatly prevent much future drama in my life.

More challenges will come. They will make me less selfish, more giving, and more mature.

It’s almost funny to think that some of the things I now appreciate most in life are learning to become less selfish, more giving, and therefore, more mature.

That’s what can happen to somebody a decade into the future.

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I’m Responsible for My Son’s “Good Old Days”

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One advantage of getting to review cars for this blog is that I get free access to XM radio. I’ve been flipping back and forth between XMU (rock music for college kids) and Alt Nation (modern alternative rock).

I recently was introduced to a perfectly nostalgic song called “Stressed Out” by Twenty One Pilots. My favorite part of the song contains these lyrics:

“Wish we could turn back time, to the good old days
When our momma sang us to sleep but now were stressed out”

Somewhat surprisingly, until I heard that song a couple of weeks ago, I had never truly fathomed that those “good old days” I myself lived through in the 1980s, some of the warmest and fuzziest moments and memories in my life, occurred only because of my parents.

Flash forward from 1985, when I myself was 4 years old, to 2015; now my own son is 4 years old.

My son lives in a wonderland of stuffed animals as friends; a land where monster trucks are a legitimate means of transportation… and where he can typically get away with eating mac-and-cheese for most of his meals as long as he eats his veggie-fruit pouch.

He lives in this wonderland in 2015 because of his mommy and me.

And I lived in that wonderland in 1985 because of my own parents.

It takes a good parent to create that wonderland for their own kid; which I assume if you are reading this now, then you must be one as well. Granted, providing a loving home is ultimately all it really takes to make that wonderland.

A child’s imagination takes care of the rest; as long as that child feels loved and cared for and listened to and played with and encouraged.

No matter which toys make up that wonderland, no matter how big or small the house is, and no matter how many other kids are in the wonderland in that big or small house with a lot or little toys… all that matters is that there is obvious love in that household.

That’s what creates “the good old” days for the kids we bring into this world.

It’s that simple, yet that epic:

I am responsible for my son’s “good old days.” All I have to do is simply love my son, something I am completely wired to do anyway.

And yet I never think about the sacrifices I make in my life to love him. And I’m pretty sure my own parents never did either when they were raising me.

Dear Jack: You’re Starting Pre-K Next Week

4 years, 9 months.

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Dear Jack,

Our family recently attended the Rainbow Summer Social at Rainbow Child Care Center. They had a fire truck for us to tour; as well as a photo booth and carnival games.

You were very happy that you basically had unlimited access to just keep playing the same games and to have the ability to keep winning prizes.

Dear Jack: You’re Starting Pre-K Next Week

A collection of sticky rubber frogs made their way back to our house.

Next week you officially begin Pre-K. You and I, along with your current teacher Ms. Aimee, recently made a Jack-Man episode to promote the brand-new Pre-K classroom.

(Click the image below to watch our video.)

You’ve expressed to me that you’re particularly excited about your new classroom because, “it has really cool dinosaurs.”

Jack, this is your last year of preschool before I begin taking you to Kindergarten! A year from now, I’m sure I’ll be posting my (obligatory) “1st Day of Kindergarten” picture on Facebook.

Dear Jack: You’re Starting Pre-K Next Week

Mommy and I keep saying how you really are a boy now.

As your parents, we’ve grown accustomed to living with a boy version of a toddler. Now, with you nearly 5 years old, we’re living with a boy; not simply just a boy version of something.

These are the days of you getting to pick out which underwear to wear each day. You get to decide whether it’s going to be a Transformers or a Ninja Turtles kind of day.

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I look at your genetically unlikely blonde highlights as well as your genetically unlikely blue eyes and think, “This kid used to be my baby. But now, this is my boy.”

Though I might be saying this too much here lately, I’m just so proud that you are my son.

The future is unclear whether or not Mommy and I will ever have another child.

You may be it. Either way, you are one special kid.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: You’re Not Growing Up Way Too Fast

4 years, 8 months.

The Reason You’re Not Growing Up Too Fast

Dear Jack,

I’ve never felt that you are growing up too quickly. I think you’re growing up at exactly the right speed.

The metronome in my head works just fine as it measures at what rate you should graduate across the sliding scale of baby to boy.

Maybe a good reason I feel this way is that I’ve written at least one blog post and/or letter to or about you since before you were born. That’s more than 5 years now!

There are now hundreds of stories and pictures of your life story that I have preserved in time. (And they all can be retrieved by clicking on the Blog Archives tab on the left side of the screen.)

So maybe I am the exception to the rule of feeling my kid is growing up too fast. I never find myself missing any younger version of you. I have warm nostalgic thoughts about those days, but I don’t miss them.

Because I so appreciate who you are now.

You’re perfect. You’re exactly everything I could possibly hope for in a son.

You are a beautiful, intelligent, and creative young boy.

It is a gift each day that I get to see who you are becoming.

Maybe I’m being too pragmatic here, but if I really wanted to relive the “baby days”, I should focus getting you a brother or sister…

That seems like the best way to relive that time period, but at the same time be able to appreciate the nearly 5 year-old boy you are.

But no, you’re not growing up too quickly for me.

You’re my genius son who just entered his Lego creations into the upcoming county fair. But you’re also down-to-Earth enough that you fully appreciated the “pooping moose” key chain I brought back from Grand Rapids this week as a souvenir.

Love,

Daddy

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Dear Jack: You Now Can Remember Your “Past Life” As A Baby

3 years, 11 months.

Dear Jack: You Now Can Remember Your “Past Life” As A Baby

Dear Jack,

Here lately, you’ve been asking me questions when you were a baby. I’ve determined that your definition of “baby” basically means any time before you were 3 years old.

Given that your 4th birthday is coming up next weekend; that means that the last year of your life, the year between age 3 and age 4, is the part you’ve lived as a “boy.”

Again, this is all your thinking, not mine. I’ve learned this by you calling any other kid under the age of 3 a baby.

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So in essence, you are asking questions about your “past life”… I was there for all of it, documenting it the whole time. As for you, you mainly only remember the events from the most recent 25% of your life.

Dear Jack: You Now Can Remember Your “Past Life” As A Baby

For example, you obviously still remember your friend Sophie; she moved away in February.

But as for Henry, you’re clueless. Many playdates took place. There were countless hours together at your school.

Yet the only reference you have of him is after the fact; pictures and videos that I took of you two.

Dear Jack: You Now Can Remember Your “Past Life” As A Baby

Of course, I fully recognize that this most recent 25% of your life will eventually become the oldest 25%, getting blurrier as each year passes.

In the end, you’ll only remember a portion of this past year which you can currently recall very well.

Like this- will you remember the days when you’d visit our next door neighbor Rachel and her pet cat after school?

Because those are things are going on in your life right now.

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Will you remember drawing your awesome pictures of monster trucks then asking Mommy and me to cut them out and hang on the fridge?

As for me, I serve witness to these memories which will mostly be forgotten by you. And since I’m taking good notes, you’ll always have a portal to the past for any day you want to travel time.

I’ll tell you all about it. I’ll even show you.

Love,

Daddy