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Father to Son

My little boy is about to mark his second year on God's green earth. In a mere 24 months, he has gone from a cooing, drooling, Desitin-scented dove to a vindictive and brutal dictator, hell-bent on tormenting his sister and the dog, hurling his body onto the floor from the couch, stuffing sand into his gullet, saying "stinky poo poo" over and over again at Stop & Shop and yelling really, really loudly.  "No" and "Don't like" are now his favorite things to say. ("Don't like kiss" scored huge points with my wife last week, I'll tell you.)

I'd like to commemorate Sir William's birthday with a special post directed to him, if you all  will indulge me.

William bares his teeth. Be afraid. Be very afraid.


Here you are almost 2 — soon you'll be 3, then 10, then 16, and by that time Daddy will be too exhausted to nurture you the way he should or even carry on a coherent conversation. So I'm recording my advice to you now, while I still have my wits about me and you're taking your nap. This is important stuff, son, so pay attention.

First of all, don't drink cheap beer.

I'm not talking about when you're in college and all you can afford is a $5 12-pack of Black Label. No, I'm referring to the years after that, when you're a hipster grad student in Boston, hanging out at the Trident Bookstore Cafe on Newbury Street, scrawling your meaningful work in the Moleskin notebook that never leaves your side. At that time, pick up a Guinness or a Beamish or even a Watney's Red Barrel. Those will more appropriately accompany your turtleneck and jacket with the patches on the elbows.

Secondly, please understand that Van Halen is, and always will be, the greatest rock 'n' roll band in the world.

Just look past all the bickering between the brothers, the revolving-door policy regarding lead singers and the dreadful 2004 tour. I want you to get into your (practical, mid-price-range hybrid) car, roll the windows down and play Women and Children First all the way through, really, really loud. I understand that today you're happy enough to hear the "Higglytown Heroes" theme over and over again, and that when you're a teenager you'll listen to some God-awful noise,* but trust me on this. "Eruption" will blow you away.

Lastly (and this is a biggie), there will come a day when you're standing in the mall with your wife,** and she'll present you with two pairs of shoes. She'll ask you which pair you like better. You'll look at Pair A, then Pair B, and you’ll think to yourself, "I honestly, in my heart of hearts, do not have an opinion on this."

Do not panic. What you'll be experiencing is completely normal. It's very, very hard to see what makes one pair of shoes superior to another, and even more difficult to care. Your job at that moment is to toss an imaginary coin in your mind: Heads, the pair on the right. Tails, the left. Make your choice and stick with it. Remember, it isn't your job to determine which pair your wife will buy; you've just got to be an active participant in the shopping process.

There you have it. You may want to print this out to refer to when you're writing that book about what a well-adjusted and successful adult you've become, thanks to the tremendous parenting you received. For now, though, all I ask is that you continue to be my sweet little boy. That messy mop of hair, your perpetually shoe-less left foot, pudgy little fists and fearless enthusiasm lift me up in ways you can't even understand. I love you so much, son. Happy birthday.

*Sorry, son, but it's my duty to call your music "God-awful noise." You'll understand when you're older.

**Or husband. Who knows.