As a pre-​​adoptive can­di­date par­ent, I was encour­aged to write a let­ter to my (still unknown) prospec­tive child. The idea behind this is obvi­ous: I must delin­eate, as best I can, why I want to be a father; while super­fi­cially the let­ter might be a kind of com­mer­cial pro­mot­ing myself as a par­ent, the real pur­pose is to expose, to me, what my moti­va­tions are.

I’m not ashamed of my moti­va­tions. I want to be a dad. I recently moved from my old, cramped apart­ment to a larger, split-​​level town­home to make room for my son, whomever he might be; but there’s just so much you can do with rent, bed­rooms and such before you have to really look inside and ana­lyze what you’re up to and why.

There’s stuff in here that’s intensely per­sonal; but I’m not much of a one to mask real feel­ing when it’s sin­cere — and the let­ter is prob­a­bly mature in many ways, but bear in mind it will be read by a kid who has been ter­ri­bly torn by life’s sodomy, a boy well-​​acquainted already with the fluid bleed­ing nature of pain; how do you con­de­scend to such a child, how do you try to paint a pic­ture of end­lessly blue skies, end­less green mead­ows, and fuzzy bun­nies for­ever? That’s bull­shit, and a boy aged five to ten or so, up for family-​​shattered adop­tion, is well aware of that.

Kids, even young, even in ideal fam­i­lies, can smell lies at a thou­sand yards. The worst thing you can do, the quick­est way to lose their trust, is to utter the tired, false phrase every­thing will be okay. You don’t have to be a par­ent to know that’s true; you just have to know a few kids.

So here’s my draft to Yoshi.

==

I don’t know you now and you don’t know me. I’m writ­ing this as a kind of exer­cise, a way to let me see how much I might be ready for you.

My life has been pretty calm, I guess. I mean, I never had to live through a hur­ri­cane or a war on my home turf, I never had any­one close to me who died, I never had to under­stand the sor­row of los­ing one or both par­ents for­ever. Sure, some things were hard, but noth­ing was really awful.

When I was a kid my par­ents broke up and that was bad, but I never really lost the sense that they were there for me. My dad sort of drifted off, got involved in his own things; and I do that too some­times, so I think I don’t hate him for his obvi­ous devo­tion to his lat­ter family.

Meanwhile my mom drifted a while and found a really great guy, Pete, my other dad. They decided to make it offi­cial a few years back and got mar­ried, and while not every part of our still-​​learning fam­ily nec­es­sar­ily agrees with every other part, well, I think we’re going to ham­mer things out and make them work. So we’re all used to things hap­pen­ing that seem dif­fer­ent, things that make it seem like we’re made up com­pletely of a fam­ily of weirdos.

They’re all weirdos — me included — but we really are a family.

And then there’s you and me. I think we will fit right in once we’re used to it, a great big happy fam­ily of the weird.

When my folks split it was very bad. It sucked. I was only eleven, just a kid like you, and it wasn’t fair and I hated it and I didn’t know where things would go, didn’t know if I’d be wanted by any­one. After the divorce my dad started a fight with my mom over cus­tody for some typically-​​stupid adult rea­sons, the kinds of rea­sons that don’t care about the kids even though they say they do, and I had to choose. I knew I wasn’t really being asked to choose — I mean, that’s what I had been told by adults in my life right then — but I knew I was choos­ing all the same.

(I’ve always hated how adults tell kids things they just know aren’t true, like how you aren’t really choos­ing some­thing when every­one knows you are; kids aren’t dumb and some­times they’re a lot brighter than the adults. Because kids pay atten­tion to things adults don’t always notice. Kids see things that adults don’t always under­stand. Kids have to live through things that adults sim­ply can­not com­pre­hend. It seems like when peo­ple get older, they for­get. Well, I haven’t for­got­ten. I haven’t for­got­ten any of it. Even though I am very old — old enough to remem­ber the days before Xbox, DS or MP3, before DVD or satel­lite TV. I remem­ber life before SpongeBob; I remem­ber life before there was even a Cartoon Network. That’s old, boy.)

It was very hard, hav­ing to tell the peo­ple around me that I wanted to be with my mom and not my dad. I didn’t want any­one to be hurt. I didn’t want to be put in the mid­dle, but I was.

Why? I still don’t know; nearly thirty years later, I still don’t know.

I heard a lot of typ­i­cally bad adult excuses, such as this is how we can fig­ure out what’s best for you, and I remem­ber being pretty pissed when some adults asked me, in those days, why I seemed so sad. I mean, duh. (I even had a teacher tell me not to wear my heart on my sleeve, which didn’t make sense to me then; and now, much older, I under­stand the term, but it still seems like a stu­pid thing to say to a kid caught help­less in the mid­dle of his family’s self-​​destruction. Sure, I was sen­si­tive. Who wouldn’t be?)

I do know that ask­ing a kid, at age eleven, to pick Mom or Dad is a pretty damned shitty thing to do.

Maybe that same kind of shitty thing hap­pened to you. Maybe you were asked to choose one day. Maybe some­one said to you that you could pick your mom or your dad or … or some­thing else.

Maybe I’m part of that some­thing else. And you know what? The idea scares the hell out of me. Because I don’t want to be some­one else who just hurts you again, I don’t want to be just another damned adult who stomps on your heart and doesn’t seem to care.

I don’t know you right now. I’m writ­ing this on guesses and ideas. But I guess I have a few ideas about where you’re com­ing from and how bad it hurts. Maybe you’re in that “tran­si­tion” thing between how it used to be, and a fos­ter fam­ily now, look­ing at the idea of set­tling down with me for­ever. Maybe you’re won­der­ing if life will ever stop being so sad and strange and confusing.

Yoshi, boy, some­times it’s going to hurt. Not every day, not all the time, but some­times life hurts. There is no way any­one can stop it from hurt­ing. Even if you live a “per­fect” life, some days, you’re going to be in pain. That is a hard, sad real­ity; and one good way to deal with it is to have some­one in your life who loves you and will hold you as the tears roll and refuses to let go of you until you are okay. To know that, what­ever it takes, when you are in the shel­ter of that person’s arms, you are home and you are loved.

And maybe you’re won­der­ing if com­ing to live with me means you’ll never see the other peo­ple in your life again.

Don’t worry about that, Yoshi. If you want to call your other fam­i­lies on the phone, you can. If you want to visit them you can. If you want to have them come and visit with us you can. They’re a part of your life and they’ll be there as long as you want them to be. That’s true, kid. It’s as true as life and love.

But deeper down maybe you’re afraid of some­thing else. Maybe you’re afraid that you’re going to go from house to house for­ever, like you’re doomed to live your life in hotels, sur­rounded by things that aren’t yours, mov­ing your clothes and toys from chest to box to draw­ers that don’t belong to you, stuck for­ever in a place where you always have to meet new kids, go to a dif­fer­ent school and sleep in a room that never seems to be the room that really belongs to just you. Maybe you’re afraid you’ll be like Harry Potter, stuck in a tiny cold closet under a stair­case and sur­rounded by angry peo­ple who don’t really want you.

All the toys in the world, all the books you can read, all the games you play or shows you watch don’t help when it’s dark at night and you won­der if any­one could ever want you, or why any­one could ever want you.

But I do, Yoshi. I want you. I want you to be my boy.

I have a room for you, with a bed you can sleep in all your own, a place where you can live and have friends, your friends, over to stay the night. I can cook — I’m actu­ally pretty good at it, so good that one of my recipes was used at work for a while in the cafe­te­ria — and will make you break­fast, lunch and din­ner, just for you. I have clos­ets for your clothes, and a bath­room you can use to brush your teeth and take show­ers or baths, I have room and space for you in my house and in my heart, and you won’t have to share any of it with any­one if you don’t want to, and you won’t have to worry about being replaced or taken away.

I’m not your mom, of course; I’m a man. And I’m not your dad either. What I am is an adult man, in his late 30s, who wants to be a father; I want to be a dad and I want to know what it’s like to have a son.

Now I could maybe get mar­ried and have a son that way; and that would prob­a­bly work … but what if I got into a fight with the woman I mar­ried? What would hap­pen to the kids then? Might it end up like it did with my own mom and dad after I was born? Would my kids have to try to pick?

I wouldn’t want that. I don’t want that. I want to be a dad, with no one telling me that I can’t be, with no one to argue with. So I decided a few years ago that if I was going to be a dad, that if I was going to have a son of my own, no one would be able to take him away from me.

So I under­stood that I would have to adopt, if I really wanted to be a dad forever.

And that’s what I’m doing now, as I write this. I’m look­ing for a son, and when you read this, I’ll know it’s because you are the one. I call you Yoshi now because I don’t know what else to call you, and in Japan the word “yoshi” means “adopted son”. It’s not just the tur­tle from the Mario games.

I can’t make things like they used to be when you were with your mom or dad. I can’t change the world back and I can’t make them dif­fer­ent. No one can. Sometimes, peo­ple get trapped into things they didn’t plan, and some­times they don’t know how to get out. Like the poor girl in the well from The Ring, all they know is how bad it hurts, how bad they want to get out.

And some­times there are kids who get caught in it all, caught like ghosts in a scary movie, try­ing all the time to escape but not know­ing where to go.

Yoshi, you are not a ghost; you are a liv­ing human boy and there is a way out for you, and if I can help you find it I will.

I can give you food, and clothes and a bed of your own and a room to live and grow up in, games to play, friends to share, things that let you grow and learn and be happy in the world — but I can’t stop you from hurt­ing some­times when you think of how badly life has treated you; I can’t take away the real hurt of los­ing what should have always been yours.

I’ll hold you when you are sad and I’ll kiss your tears away, but I will never be your true birthright; I’ll never be your bio­log­i­cal father. I know that, and you will too, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be your dad and it doesn’t mean you can’t be my son.

I don’t know you yet, Yoshi, so I can’t say that I love you; but I can say that, when you are ready, I will love you, and that it won’t go away, and if it works for us, it will be some­thing that will be there for us, for the rest of our lives. I will look at you and tell peo­ple, “This is my son, my boy.” And you will be able to tell peo­ple, “Here’s my dad, right now, right next to me.”

You can, if you want, be the love of my life.

If you let me, I will love you. If you give me a lit­tle room, give me a chance, take your time and get to know me and learn you can trust me, I will be there for you, I’ll have your back, I’ll cover you and care for you and fight for you, and I won’t stop until I’m dead.

Because that is what fathers do for their sons, and if you let me, I will be what you need me to be, as much as I need a boy to call my own.

Will you be happy every day, from now on? No. No one can be. Anyone who says oth­er­wise is lying. But will you be able, after a while, to see that maybe life isn’t so ter­ri­ble, will you be able to be, in a while, con­tent?

I hope so.

I call you Yoshi now because I don’t know who you are.

Be my son. Let me be your dad.

Please tell me your name.

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