My second son will be turning one this spring and I am already thinking about the best birthday gift possible.
I’m setting up his own email account.
I am doing it to send him pictures and write to him as though he is adult, which he will be when he opens the account and read it for the first time. It will give me the opportunity to share little stories that I think he will enjoy when he gets older.
Anne Lamott wrote in Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year, ““I don’t remember who said this, but there really are places in the heart you don’t even know exist until you love a child.” And that is what this email address will be — a place to record the love in my heart for him.
I will share the funny moments, the awkward ones, the proud accomplishments, and everything in between. He’ll get his artwork from school, family holiday photos, and letters on the small rewards of our life together that time could easily erase but email can preserve for a later date.
I hope to be vulnerable as a parent, revealing my own fears, shortcomings, and imperfections because this email account won’t just be the highlight reel of his childhood. Since he will see these emails when he is coming of age — whenever that may be — I want them to inform him not about who I was as a parent, but who he can be as a adult. Ultimately I hope he comes to realize what shaped him and how he can go forth in the world to influence the lives of others. If not, there will undoubtedly be I.O.Us like, “Today you shit yourself while knocking the egg carton off the kitchen counter and then cried for 10 minutes until I came over and cleaned you up. You owe my retirement fund another $100. With interest.” to remind him of the sacrifices we all make in life.
The Gift of Vulnerability
In Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead Brene Brown works to dispel the cultural myth that vulnerability is weakness and argues that it is, in truth, our most accurate measure of courage. She “explains how vulnerability is both the core of difficult emotions like fear, grief, and disappointment, and the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, empathy, innovation, and creativity.”
And ultimately that is what this first birthday present will be about. It will serve as a means for my wife and I to be vulnerable as parents, sharing our fear and disappointments as well as our joys and comforts so that he can truly feel what it means to be loved.