LETTER TO MY PRE-PARENT SELF
Knowing you, as I do, I’m sure you will be rather chuffed to receive a written letter. It may be hard to imagine but this form of communication will become rare in your future years. It is all instant and impersonal these days – texts, emails and social media. I’ve no doubt you would love me to tell you that you will get the hang of it all but we both know what you are like with technology.
I imagine you will have many questions about me and that’s ok. I don’t have time here to answer them all now but maybe we could keep talking and work it all out as we go? I’d like that a lot. I will settle now for telling you that I’ve been asked to write this letter because I do a bit of blogging these days. I know you won’t yet understand what that means and, even if I explain it, you wouldn’t believe it.
Of course the first question is which pre-parent era Jonny should I be addressing this letter to? Should it be the scared kid who used wit and humour to cover up crippling fear? The successful journalist who lost his way in a ruthless profession? No. I’m thinking of the day when you might need a letter from me the most. That day, in your early twenties, when you just couldn’t see the point anymore and decided it was too hard to go on. I don’t need to go into specifics, we both know the day I’m talking about.
Now I suppose you are hoping that I will tell you that it’s all going to be ok. That it gets easier. That you work it all out at some point and reach that place of serenity and peace that you have always dreamed about. The problem is Jonny, and I’m actually crying for you as I write this, but it doesn’t. The truth is that it will always be this hard for you. The fear and anxiety, the suffocation of depression will always be there. I’m so, so sorry to have to tell you this but that’s just the way your mind works.
And I’m sorry for another reason. Sorry that I didn’t know back then how to be kinder to you, to have any useful way of helping you. Sorry that I was so hard on you all the time. I’m afraid I just didn’t know how to love you and that will always be my deepest regret.
But there is something that I really want you to know. That you will have a family all of your own someday. You will meet a wonderful girl and get married. It will take a lot of time but you will eventually admit to her what goes on in your head. And guess what? She will still love you anyway and you will realise how many years were wasted keeping it all wrapped up.
And then there is your son, the reason why I am writing to you today. Your beautiful little boy who will change everything the first time you hold his writhing little body in your arms and he peers angrily at you. Get used to that look, you are going to see a lot more of it over the years.
You will learn together and both stumble repeatedly along the way. You will at times be crushed by the awe-inspiring responsibility of trying to raise and shape another human being. In some ways it will take you further away from normal society because you never quite shake that early wide-eyed amazement of what you are doing. You never lose that desire to go up to total strangers in the street, grab them and yell ‘Look at my son! Isn’t he just wonderful?’ When people ask you what you do your first answer will always be the same. ‘I’m a father’.
But there will be many more bad days. I’m afraid to tell you this but some of them will be worse than you have yet known. The biggest challenges are still to come. But here is the thing you really need to remember. When they come you will have your family to help you through them. When it is really bad you are not alone. When the night is at its deepest there will be three in the bed and there will always be arms stretching out to hold you in the dark. I suppose it is what you and I have always been searching for. A reason for it all. It is home.
The problem with writing letters is knowing how to finish, finding a neat way of summing up all that has gone before. How about this? You will have a family that you love. They will also love you. But more importantly, because of them, you will learn to love yourself.
Take care Jonny. I love you so much. I’m sorry it took me so many years to say it.
(This letter first appeared on the Mums NI website http://www.mumsni.com)