Hi little one. I haven’t forgotten you. I’m finding it hard to get enough time to put both hands on a keyboard, between my new job, helping care for you, and getting enough sleep to be a functioning human being. You’re a healthy twelve pounds now, and you show no signs of slowing down. The days where I could cradle your head in my hand and tuck your feet into my elbow are quickly coming to a close; soon you’ll be too unwieldy to juggle single-handed while fixing a fresh pot of coffee.

finn and teller

The world has changed since the day you were born; the leaves have all turned color, gotten wet, blown down, and collected in our backyard, which means I’ve got a long weekend of bagging in my future. The entire world economy is apparently in the crapper, but we’re all walking around pretending like nothing’s wrong, praying to god this will all just blow over. Gas is back below $2 a gallon, something your father never thought he’d see again. And our country elected its first black president last week, something I thought I’d never see during your lifetime.

It’s mid-November already, so lately I’ve been thinking of the list of things I wanted to accomplish this year, and how I wasn’t able to get to everything; I’ve also been thinking of the things I want you to know as you grow to be an adult. Looking around, I have the impression that most modern-day American youth don’t know much of anything beyond shopping and Facebook, and I really want better for you than that. Mama and I don’t want you to have to depend on anyone, and we don’t want you to be afraid to try to do anything, so if there’s one thing I hope we can pass along to you, it will be the courage to fail.

So I’ve created this list, which is really more of a rough guideline. You don’t have to do all of these things, and you certainly don’t need to love them all, but I’d like for you to try each of them.

Change a flat tire. This is up there in the list with anything car-related, basically; I don’t want for you to be taken advantage of by shady mechanics or “good samaritans”. It’s also a handy litmus test, too; if you ever date a male who hasn’t/can’t do this, you know it’s time to throw the pantywaist back and keep looking. I will buy you dolls, I will buy you dresses, I will attend tea parties with your stuffed animals. I will also buy you a set of spanner wrenches and read you Chilton’s manuals before bedtime.

92 years young!

Paint a room. Your great-grandfather put his children through college painting houses, and your father was a professional contractor for two years. It’s in your blood. You have no choice, really. I have a tiny paint brush all ready for you. There are touch-ups to be done in the nursery. Get to work.

Buy a used car. See “Flat tire” above. This is an important skillset to have, and it translates to many other commodities. What is your gut feeling about the seller? Have you done your homework? Can you afford this? Do you really need a Scout right now? (The answer to the last question will always be yes).

woeful powerbook screen

Fix a computer. It is my hope that one day your knowledge will eclipse mine. Another important skillset, almost mandatory in this age. I think you’ll find it’s much preferable to having some sweaty mouthbreather poking around your hard drive. And, a bonus: People will pay you for it.

Give a speech in public/teach a class. I used to be terrified of public speaking, and I still am to some degree. I’ve found, though, that if I’m well-educated in my subject and I feel confident with my message, it’s not too bad after the first five minutes.

Get a graduate-level degree. Education, education, education. We can’t stress its importance enough, as long as it’s not a diversion for real life: a four-year degree means FOUR YEARS. And we understand that college isn’t just about studying. You can get a minor in partying just as long as you major in something with a GPA higher than 3.5.

Over the top

Skydive. (just tell your mother and I after you do it, OK?)

Backpack and camp in the wild. This is part of the don’t-be-afraid advice, mixed with perseverance and planning. Everyone should spend a night in the woods hunting for dry firewood and listening to strange noises rustling through the leaves. And guys have respect for girls who will go camping: it means you’re not a princess.

Cook Thanksgiving dinner/dinner for the family. all chauvinism aside, there are few things harder in life than cooking a juicy bird; harder still is getting all of Thanksgiving dinner on the table at the same time. It’s an ass-kicker of a job, but boy are the results worth it. Your mother finds a creative outlet in cooking; having the skill and the confidence to try will be one of her many gifts to you.

Pour a dry martini. I learned this solely to impress your mother. Hopefully you might learn this and one day impress a wealthy suitor, a head of state, or an astronaut. Plus, general bartending abilities are a marketable skill. (see education above).

Mystery cello

Play an instrument. Had I not taken a chance in seventh grade (I believe that some higher power made me raise my hand that fateful day), I would have missed out on so much, Finn. I got to play on Main Street in Disney World, on stage at Carnegie Hall, and as first chair in my high school orchestra. I made a lot of very good friends, and found something else I was good at, which I desperately needed at that point in my life. I really hope you have musical talents too. If not, that’s OK; I just want you to try.

Can vegetables or fruits. As your mother says, this is a handy skill for the coming Apocalypse. And it’s an easy way to save some money!


Travel abroad. If I hadn’t been convinced to take a chance by my beautiful bride, I would never have seen the beauty that is Rome. I don’t know how we’ll swing it, but we will travel abroad as a family someday. And when you tell me you would like to explore Europe or South America or Africa as a student of life, I will set aside my fears, gather my strength, and help you find a way to make that happen.

Write a book. I’m still working on this one after thirty-seven years, so I know how hard it is. But genetics say you will probably have some talent for writing, and we will foster that as much as possible.

Paint or draw. See above. Your Grandpa brought home reams of tabloid-sized computer paper from his job to let us draw on, and I created an entire series of comic books loosely based on Star Wars: the beginning of a successful career in the arts. As long as it’s not a Sharpie on my laptop monitor, you have full license to draw, paint, scribble, or color any flat surface you can find. Oh, and not the couch, either.

Play an organized sport. Despite three hitless years of Little League baseball, Papa was asses and elbows until his senior year of high school, when suddenly a switch got flipped and he found his coordination. I hope you find yours earlier, because it makes team sports enjoyable rather than prolonged torture. I don’t expect you to be Mia Hamm, but I believe the experience is important. Again, try it—lacrosse, swimming, tennis, whatever. We’ll be at the games, even if you’re on the bench.

You Say Tomato

Plant a garden from seed. Even though Grandpa seems to do this with ease, Mama and I can’t figure the seed part out. However, Mama has strong garden-fu, and you will be raised with dirt under your fingernails.

Catch a fish, gut it, and cook it for supper. See camping and canning vegetables above. It’s all about preparing for the End Times, kid.

Date posted: November 16, 2008 | Filed under finn | Comments Off on Eight Weeks.

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