Dear Tristan: I’m Sorry

Dear Tristan,

As I sit here putting the finishing touches on this letter, I’m looking at you, sitting there looking back at me, and I’m imagining the day when you’re old enough to read them. I’m so looking forward to sharing these thoughts with you.

In today’s letter, I wanted to expand on something I talked about very briefly in yesterday’s note – namely, the fact that I will sometimes fail you.

By the time you’re old enough to read this, it will come as no great shock to you to realize that “daddy is sometimes wrong.” What has come as something of a shock to me is how few of the men I have known are capable of admitting that fact . . . that they are sometimes wrong . . . particularly to someone younger, less experienced, or in a position of inferiority.

Oh, sure, in the abstract, they . . . we . . . are more than happy to admit that we don’t have it all figured out. We might get a chagrined look on our face as we talk of a specific area in which we’ve been known to fail a few times. We may even take those failings on as a piece of our identity, “I’m a slob,” “I’m a procrastinator,” “I’m a klutz.” Your mom talked in her first letter about how damaging these judgments can be . . . and one of the reasons they’re so damaging is that they allow us to categorize ourselves and others without having to deal in specific situations.

And it’s those situations I want to talk to you about. At the same time that we pass judgments on ourselves and others, attaching labels like the ones I mentioned above, where we’re “wrong” in theory, we have a burning need to be “right” in specific situations. We insist that this time is different. We equate wisdom with experience, assuming that because we’ve seen more sunrises than you have, we’re wiser than you are.

And sometimes . . . in some areas . . . that’s true. But sometimes it’s not. There will be times when I am right and you are wrong, but there will also be times when you are right and I am wrong.

That’s what I wanted to tell you in this letter. I can’t promise you I’ll always get everything right. In fact, I can promise you that I won’t. What I can do is share with you the fact that I always hope I can be open to learning from you, even in areas where my experience or knowledge are greater than yours. I’m a person of strong beliefs . . . but I’m also fairly convinced that much of what I believe is incorrect – either partially or entirely. I don’t know which pieces, of course. Otherwise I wouldn’t believe them. But I want to raise you as someone who is capable of teaching me just as much (if not more) than I teach you . . . not only because I want to raise you to value knowledge and curiousity, but because I want to make myself open to being challenged when I am wrong.

I would much rather have a son who is discerning enough to know when I am wrong, bold enough to challenge me on it, and intelligent enough to convince me of my own error, than I would a son who is absolutely obedient every time I give an order without a thought on whether that order is right or wrong. I don’t want to throw your boldness and discernment back in your face by using them to accuse you of “rebelliousness” or “disobedience.”

I don’t want you to blindly follow me or anyone else just because they are bigger, stronger, louder, or more highly placed than you. I want to work together with you to find the truth in a given situation. I don’t want you to think the way I think merely because that’s the way I think . . . I want you to think for yourself!

If that means we disagree sometimes, so be it. If it means that there are times you’ll have things you can teach me, I welcome them. I hope I always welcome them.


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Filed under Things intended for my children that the rest of you get to read too

One Response to Dear Tristan: I’m Sorry

  1. Pingback: Dear Tristan: on curiosity : heidi

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