Our family has been writing Christmas letters for 26 years and often our kids will take their turn. This year my 26-year-old son, Dano, wrote a very clever letter that summarized our year very well.
If you only know me through this blog, you may be surprised that I even have a son. I have written a lot about Maria’s wedding and Katie’s travels and nursing school adventures but I haven’t uttered a word about Dano. In his section of the Christmas letter about himself, he leads with this line: “With Katie and Maria stealing the headlines this year, I could have moved west and started a family without anyone noticing.”
Yes, Dano has not been getting much attention this year, but don’t bring out the crying towels just yet. Dano is having a great year, and is emerging as a remarkable young man; without much pomp and circumstance.
People tell me Dano is a lot like his Dad and I certainly seem some of the similarities. We like many of the same things, laugh at a lot of the same jokes, cry a bit more than men are supposed to cry; but there is one big difference. I have always pushed myself harder than Dano. In fact, Dano, at least on the surface, often doesn’t seem to be “pushing himself” much at all. He tends to take things in stride.
I have one very distinct parenting memory that really illustrates this point. Dano has loved sports every since he was able to walk, much like his Dad. We played basketball in our backyard endlessly and he became quite good. By the time he was in 4th grade and able to start traveling sports, he was one of the best in his grade. He continued to play traveling sports for many years, but eventually kids who were working a bit harder started to pass him up. Dano just kept playing ball and having fun. I don’t think I am one of those Dads who needed to have a child playing a varsity sport, but I thought I ought to at least ask Dano if it was bothering him that he was gradually falling away from the “varsity track”. It surprised me a little when he said, without missing a beat, that he played sports for fun and that it really did not matter if he ever played on a varsity team. And so it went. To this day, he plays some sport almost daily. In some sports, he is quite good, but he never really seems to look at it as a way to really prove anything. He just seems to be having fun.
In that way Dano is different than me. I have, at times, pushed myself very hard, behaving as if I had something to prove. Indeed, I think this drive to “prove something” helped me accomplish some things, and I feel good about many of those things, but I am starting to realize there was never really anything I needed to prove.
Dano has seemed to understand this from the beginning. (Maybe he got that from his mother.) In his own way, he has accomplished many things; probably more than I had at his age. He has a warmth that draws people to him. He is the kind of person that makes you smile when you see him come into the room. He seems to trust who he is and looks for fun in every day. He reaches out to people with little effort and helps them feel important. In those ways, he has accomplished many things, without having anything to prove, and has even taught his Dad a few things along the way.