"A Letter To My Kids"

Okay, you got me. I don't have kids. I don't plan on having kids anytime soon. But now that I'm married, the possibility of kids in my future begins to look a lot more certain, and I thought it might be nice to have something written so my sons or daughters will know that their dad wasn't always some old guy they can't relate to. I'm fully aware that by the time I finally am a father, I'll probably think that all of this was hopelessly naive. But my kids will have documented evidence that I once believed this.

1. I know more than you do. Just accept that. I've been on this planet for at least thirty years more than you have, and that means I've had time to learn things. Not just the stuff you've already figured out, like the fact that fire burns, it hurts to jump off the roof pretending that you're Superman, and the dog does not much like having his fur yanked. I mean more subtle things, like knowing when it's okay to break the rules, and knowing when to toe the line. Knowing when to talk back and stand up for yourself, and when to let someone just get away with thinking whatever they want without challenging it, even if you disagree. So when I tell you to do something or not to do something, I'm not pulling it out of thin air, I'm basing it on experience and you might want to listen.

2. On the other hand, no matter how much I claim to be, I'm not always right. For your purposes, I am right about 90% of the time, even when you're sure I'm not, but when I'm wrong, you have every right to tell me so. Just be sure you're right and know that even if you're sure, you may not win the argument this time. You might have to wait until later for me to admit I was wrong. But trust me, watching that will be more fun for you than whatever I wouldn't let you do.

3. Never doubt that every single thing I do, I do to protect you and try to make a better life for you. No matter how I may joke about selling you to the gypsies (and again, 90% of the time, I am joking), you and your mother are the most important things in my life. I will gladly do anything to protect you from everything that's wrong in the world.

4. However, I can't always protect you, so don't get too cocky. Be careful, because there's a lot wrong out there. I won't lie to you, this is a pretty screwed up world I've brought you into. Guns, drugs, violence, disease, genocide, narrow-mindedness, bigotry, selfishness, all kinds of things that are part and parcel of human nature and modern society. I've done all I can to get ride of as much as I can, and sadly most of what I can do is not contribute to it. Maybe you'll be able to fix some of those things, maybe not. But don't get too frustrated if you can't. We've been trying for years, and we haven't fixed them yet. Any progress you can make is cause for celebration.

5. I'm proud of you, OK? You would have to work really hard for me not to be. So if I give you a lecture, or tell you something you did was wrong, I'm not condemning your whole life. I'm correcting one mistake so you don't make bigger ones. I don't care if you hate comic books and action figures and my movies and my music and everything else I do, as long as you have things that you love. You don't have to be a copy of me for me to be proud of you.

6. You deserve my attention. If you haven't got it, feel free to yell at me. Feel free to hit me, if that doesn't work. But don't try to get my attention by shooting up a school or attacking other people. I'll do my best to always give you the attention you deserve, but if you're so sure I'm ignoring you, take it out on me, not the rest of the world.

7. If your mom said no, don't ask me for a second opinion. She's already told me you asked, and I'll know you're trying to weasel out of it. I tried to get around my parents when I was younger too, and everytime I did it was because they were pretending they didn't know the truth.

And finally...

8. There used to be 8 of these rules. There are either more or less than before, and I've probably edited all of them. So don't be too confident that this list is a good time capsule. You might want to e-mail some of mom and dad's old friends and see if they have a copy of what I originally wrote, before I came to my senses.

Randy W. Lander

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