After many years of attempting to have a child, my wife and I welcomed our son, Hugo, into the world in January. We are hopefully exiting the new-parent haze that settles in after a newborn enters the home. He is getting into a bit of a routine, and the three of us are all sleeping a bit easier each night. It is wonderful that he is in our lives, and we are excited to watch him grow and experience the world.
An idea was proposed to us by a friend; she started to email her child with messages throughout the early years of her life. She plans to “give” the email account to her daughter when she’s a teenager, and that struck me as a fabulous idea! Given my awareness that life can be short, I figured it would be an useful record my son can refer to in the future if I’m not around to speak for myself.
I set up an email account for the little guy, and here’s the first message that will greet him in the year 2033 or so….
If you are reading this, it means you’ve reached the age of 16 or so and email is still a form of communication that’s available. I’m writing this to you in 2017 as the first of hopefully many messages that you can read in my future – your present. I probably watched Back to the Future with you at some point; this is likely the closest I’ll get to time travel!
Let’s first get the serious or “heavy” – as Marty McFly might say – topics out of the way. I realize there is the possibility that you’re reading this and I am no longer alive. At the moment, I’m 40 years-old and looking forward to spending much more time with you and your mother. I’m happy, healthy, and looking forward to discovering the world together with you. However, I was born with some heart problems and there is a chance that my health doesn’t allow me to keep going on one day. Or maybe some type of accident happened that ended my life too soon. I do not dwell on these worst-case scenarios; I’m just aware that it’s possible. I grew up with an awareness that “life can be short” because of my health issues and my father dying when I was only eight years-old.
So if I am not alive in your present, I am sorry that I’m missing all the action and that I’m not there to provide your with comfort, advice, love and support. Please know that you are loved!
One of the things that is challenging for me is that I never got to know my father as an adult. He was killed while doing his job as a police officer a few days before my ninth birthday. I sometimes wonder what adult conversations with him would be like. Would he approve of my decisions? Would he be able to joke around with me? Would our values align?
A goal of mine with these messages is to clear up some of that mystery if I’m not available in your present to answer questions you might have. Mainly, I think it’ll be fun to write to the future, young-adult version of you while you’re still growing up before my eyes.
In my timeline, you just reached two months of age. You seem to grow more each day by the time I come home from work. I’m working as a psychologist, and my day is a combination of providing therapy to patients and attending a variety of meetings with other staff here in the medical center. After I complete work for the day, I drive home (have self-driving cars taken over the roads yet?) and walk in to see you and mom. Some days you’re already awake from an afternoon nap and feeding. Some days you’re still peacefully sleeping, and others you’re alert and taking in the world with your inquisitive eyes.
I attached a picture from one of these days after I got home from work. I didn’t realize your mom took the picture while I was snuggling with you. When she showed me the picture, my heart melted because the expression on your face is so priceless. You look like a little man that was the world figured out; that is comfortable and confident.
I hope you have that same mentality in your timeline. I can only imagine the multitude of stressful things that are going on in your life as a teenager at the moment. I believe you are capable of handling whatever life throws at you, and please understand if I’m not there to tell you – the vast majority of stress and drama during high school is short-lived.
I was a nervous wreck in high school!
I had good friends but was painfully shy. I always thought that if I could go back and do that part of my life over again, I’d tell myself to relax and not take each day so seriously.
Let’s be honest, your dad was (and still is) a big nerd. I thought I had a pretty good sense of humor as a teenager but I was terrified of speaking up or standing out. My goal most days in high school was to draw as little attention to myself as possible. As a result, I probably missed out on a bunch of fun experiences. I broke out of that shell slowly in college and graduate school, and was thankfully confident enough to meet your mother at a party way back in 2000.
I know. Your parents are old!!
So hold your anxieties by the hand and approach the world like the little guy in my arms in this photo, bursting with bright-eyed confidence and vigor! Whether it’s art, science, sports, music, or some other thing – dive into what you enjoy. Take advantage of now!
And lean on us for support along the way. You can talk to your mother and I about anything; we were young once too (okay, it was a long while ago).
I hope we have enjoyed many years of reading stories, playing games, traveling to new places, and – most important of all – laughing. And if you’re reading this and I’m still around (and I certainly plan to be here in your present), then I hope we can continue to do those things together as a family.
Hugo, I love you. Just typing that now brings a tear to my eye. You’re still so new to your mother and I. We are figuring out this parenting thing a little bit more everyday. We are so excited to share experiences with you. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the reality that I have a son.
I realize I’m jumping around in terms of tense; this time-travel writing is challenging!
I’m going to close out this first message, but I wanted to add another picture so you can see my face from this time.
And to show you some proof that I was really excited to have you join our lives.