You just turned five years old. I am writing you a letter to let you know how proud I am of you, and to let you know how much I love you.
As your dad I am a shaper of your memories. The things we do together in these years of your life go on to shape you into the person you will be for the rest of your life. I consider that a very weighty privilege. And to be honest, it’s also pretty scary.
With that in mind, I have taken it upon myself to become a photographer. A good photographer is someone who is curious and excited about the beauty all around them. They notice the moments of irony and the metaphors that surround us all if we just choose to notice them. Photographers understand how to not only appreciate the light, but the shadows as well. Because it’s the shadows that frame the highlights of our lives.
I take a lot of photos. But I take the photos for you. I hang them up on my wall for you, for your future memories. That is intentional. I want you to look back on these days fondly and see my intentionality as love for you. I want you to see that I paid attention to you as you grew up. That I was there with you.
My love for you transcends time. So if you are reading this years from now, perhaps after I’m long gone, you’ll know that I love you as you are right now, even from your distant past. Go look at a photo of you from one of our walks, or vacations, or snuggles with your brother, or with your mom. The photos I took as you grew up I took for you and your brother, and perhaps someday you can show them to your own kids.
The photos I have up around my office aren’t so much for me as they are for you and your brother. These are the images which you will identify and recall as being a part of your childhood home. And so I print off and frame them around our house so that they are a visual reminder of home for you years down the road.
When you turned four, I got you a camera so that you can capture moments for yourself and for your future self. How neat will it be to go back years from now and see what caught your eye when you were four and five years old? Perhaps my own love for photography will be passed onto you.
This year I got you a skateboard. I didn’t tell your mom ahead of time, but I always wanted a skateboard as a kid, so I guess that’s why I got one for you. And I know how much you love your galaxy shoes, so that’s why I got you a galaxy skateboard. I also know that you love the outdoors and that you seem totally in your element when you go exploring. Hopefully this will help not only form memories of your childhood, but will also help you enjoy something more than the screens and apps that our world seems to be more and more consumed by. And so I hope you like it. If not though, don’t worry about it. Just be yourself.
Sometimes I think about what it must be like to grow up at Boys Town. You’ve spent most of your life here. What memories will you have of this time of your life? Do you recognize how neat it is to always have mom and dad at home with you? You might not right now, but I think you will someday.
Sometimes I worry about you. I guess it’s kind of my job to do that. But you are the younger brother to an amazing kid. An amazing kid who has special needs. And although you know he has Kabuki Syndrome by name, (or buki syndrome as you sometimes call it) you don’t have any idea what that means or that he is different from most boys his age. But that’s ok. We don’t really know what it means, either. It’s our normal, too.
Sometimes I wonder if this is the best time of your life for you two as brothers. Where the differences between the two of you aren’t really noticed yet. The ignorance within your friendship and brotherhood remains pure in your mind, not tainted by the discrimination and stigmas of our society yet.
Your name Ezra means “helper.” We knew that we’d need your help when you were born, but we had no idea how much your brother would eventually need you. Deep inside, I see that you are a helper. And we are so thankful for that. You love to help clean up when the house gets messy (often because of you…). You love to be given tasks and jobs to do so that you can be our little helper. And we love that about you.
Your middle name Yuuto means ” gentle person.” You have some room to grow into that name. Perhaps we should have named you “Cyclone” instead. But I think Gentleness is a quality that is supremely lacking today. But today, perhaps more than ever, our world needs little boys and girls, men and women who are gentle and tender-hearted. It is my continual prayer that I am able to model to you what gentleness looks like in a man and that you grow into that name of yours.
I look forward to seeing you grow this year. You’ve established some things that you like and that you dislike, and I’m curious to see how those things expand and develop. This March has been cold, wet, and rainy. But the warm weather will soon be here. We’ll take hikes together and go exploring. I’ll teach you to ride a skateboard, to roller blade, and hopefully to ride a bike without training wheels. We’ll take photos together. So many photos! And you’ll enjoy one last summer before being in elementary school.
You’re going to be a kindergartener! You’ll ride the bus to school with your brother. You learn all sorts of new and important things at school. Your curious little brain will be expanding in knowledge. These are the moments that I hope you’ll look back on fondly. And I love that I get to be a part of it with you.
Not matter what unexpected heartbreaks happen this year, as is always a risk within the timelines of our life, know that you are loved. You are appreciated. And the world is a better place because you are in it.
I love you Ezra, my little five year old. Happy birthday!
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