To my boys:
This is going to sound a bit strange for you to hear, but I cannot begin to thank you enough. You have done far more for me, already at your still young ages of 10 and 6 and 3, than I think I could ever do for you.
But it is true.
Let me explain.
You boys have made me stronger and healthier. One day a little while ago I caught myself lamenting what a great physical effort it would be to have to go all the way to the park to throw the ball around. Fortunately, I realized how nuts that was. Two years later, I’ve lost that 35 lbs, can run for half an hour without dying, can put on pants that I haven’t worn since before I was married. Now I still can’t quite keep up with Gavin when he runs away (but then again, who can?), but I can play ball or hockey or tag all day with you. And I want to.
You boys have made me a better and more enthusiastic Habs fan. Laugh if you want, but I have re-gained that ten year old’s excitement and passion for the game of hockey and my, no (sniff!) our beloved Montreal Canadiens. I always followed Les Habitants, of course, but I didn’t start seeking out player news, planning my week to watch a game on the weekend, going to Montreal to see their centennial game until you guys started getting into the game. I’ve gotten more into hockey, too, even got my first pair of new hockey skates since high school, bought a hockey helmet and am playing Canada’s game every week. Nothing I love more than to sit with you to watch a game of hockey on a Saturday night… except lacing up and hitting the ice with you, all four of us in our bleu, blanc et rouge.
You boys have made me a better Canadian. I love my country and always have. Passionately so. But I have found a deeper understanding and passion for this “handful of earth” as Al Purdy called it in the last 10 years. By going on different adventures with you to see different parts of the country, or reading about our history (especially those polar explorers), or explaining about our politics and that meanie who’s the guy in charge right now (not that I would try to influence your independent political choices, of course), I’ve gotten more excited about learning more about my own home and native land than I ever have.
You’ve made me a better son. No one appreciates their own parents like a child who has children. I’ve come to understand my mom, your Nana, in ways I could not on my own. I’ve also come to miss my dad, Grampie Gordon who neither you nor Mum ever met, in an even deeper way. I understand lifelong lessons that were learned without being taught. Bred in the bone. I hope I can be half the parent they both were. I love them both more today thanks to you. Because of you.
You boys have made me a better and more loving husband. We had a wonderfully self-centred and self-encircling life, the two of us, before you came. We were so very happy together, quietly oblivious to the greater life we now have. The moments thinking about babies, planning for babies, saving and buying for babies and bringing you into the world brought us closer together, deepened my love for your mum. And the thinking and planning and saving and buying for our growing babies, our boys, brings us closer still. I’ve seen the love and patience and caring and tenderness and patience and discipline and firmness and patience of your Mum, and wonder at it in awe. I hope I give back to her the smallest sliver that she gives to you.
You boys have made me a better man. I’ve learned more about being a man by learning to be a boy again with you. I was a pretty serious kid growing up, not the goofy, joke-bombing, cross-eyed old guy who works hard at constantly making you roll your eyes. I take pride in that. I’ve learned what it is to be a kid again and I can’t tell you how amazing that is. What fun it is. Now I just have to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.
I said that you have done far more for me than I think I could ever do for you. Rather than tightening and crowding my life, like a balloon filling with air, my life is ever expanding with you.
I said that I cannot begin to thank you enough.
Consider this the beginning of my attempt to do so.
I love you.
Ted Betts is a lawyer in Toronto who occasionally blogs about arctic exploration at Franklin’s Ghost, and is happily inspired every day by his three boys and his wife Nathalie Foy.