This is an essay from my book TLDNR: A Book of Essays for your Face to Ingest – I’m putting it here now because it’s one of my favorite pieces I’ve ever written/it’s different from my norm. Also it was written as a slam poem soooo that’s a thing.
In elementary school they always asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up. Aside from the fact the growing up scared the hell out of me, I never had a tough time answering that question. When the droopy faced sweat pant wearing child next to me exclaimed, “Astronaut” I laughed. When the curly haired pin stripe girl across the room yelled “actress” I smiled and looked up at the ceiling squinting as hard as I could to see if my X-Ray vision had kicked in yet. Then the question came to me. “Ryan,” asked the puffy hair circle face flowered dress teacher, “what do you want to do when you grow up?” “Well,” said the slightly pudgy only kid in 2nd grade with bifocal glasses red reindeer sweater wearing boy… “I want to be a daddy.”
Ever since I can remember infants were my kryptonite. When I see a tiny child stare back at me with its newly opened eyes and its disproportionate head cocked to the side, I tend to melt uncontrollably. By the time I come back to reality my friends are overly concerned for my well being, while I am overly concerned about how I can one day make something so beautiful.
Every once and a while my mind will pole vault into a future I know so well. I’m sitting on a floor holding my little man’s arms up as he learns to walk. Every time the little guy falls I lean in as if he knows what I’m saying, “good try little man, but this time keep your eyes on me, okay?” He looks back at me as if to say, “Pick me up again! This time I’m sure I’ll do it!”
I have so many lessons for my little man that I can barely contain my wind pipes from expelling a world of knowledge at any given moment to a person who doesn’t even understand the air it breathes.
I have hope for you little man, almost as much hope as I have for myself. I hope that I do a good job raising you and teaching you all that I have learned and if I don’t know the answer to your question I hope the one I make up is a damn good one.
I hope I can paint the sky on your eyes so you never stop flying. I hope I can light the evening up for you just enough so you won’t be afraid of those big bad monsters in the shadows but not so bright that you can’t see the fireflies dance around our backyard. I hope that all the bed time stories I make up for you have a beginning and a middle but lets you take the end wherever you choose it to go. I hope that every smile on your face comes from your heart and not your mind because the mind can be a formidable foe.
Little man, I won’t tell you that your options are limitless but I will tell you that your hands can pull you to wherever you choose to reach. I won’t tell you that your actions don’t have consequences but I will tell you that those consequences can sometimes be as satisfying as the actions themselves.
I will, however, tell you that you should never settle. My little boy, my little man, you will not be the man at one side of the lake asking, “how far?” You will be the man in the row boat asking the world if it wants to race. You will not be the man on the edge of the cliff, no, you will be the man watching the ground become closer and closer and pull the string only when you see the ground throw in the white towel.
I believe in you little man, and because of you, I believe in myself. I promise I will hold your little hand as we walk across the street to drop you off at school. You will be the only kid in 2nd grade with an aluminum transformers lunch box and not one but two fruit roll ups a day, every day.
And hopefully, sometime, when you are sitting in class staring at the ceiling and the teacher asks you “what you want to be when you grow up” your answer won’t be, “I want to be a daddy.” No, your answer will be, “I want to be like my daddy.”
That’s my little man.