Conversations with Your Ten-Year-Old

I know I haven’t remembered them perfectly, but these are pretty close and definitely capture the spirit of our banter.

Conversations with Your Ten-Year-Old

2 October 2021

Dear Gus,

We’ve been spending a lot of time together lately, so I thought I’d capture some of what you and I have been talking about. In these little snippets of conversation, you will be “G” and I will be “D” (for “Dad,” obviously). I know I haven’t remembered them perfectly, but these are pretty close and definitely capture the spirit of our banter.

(Watching the Ryder Cup)

G: I don’t think Rory McIlroy should be allowed to play for Europe.
D: What? Why not?
G: Brexit.
D: He’s from Ireland.
G: Northern Ireland. Still part of the UK.
D: Fair enough.

G: I don’t want you to die.
D: (taken aback) Same…?
G: But it could be worse.
D: What do you mean?
G: If Mom died, that would be a much bigger loss.
D: (…let’s that sink in…)
G: I mean, you’ve taught me a lot about baseball and golf, but Mom gave me life.

(After a fight about how to properly cleanup the dog’s muddy paw prints after G let the muddy dog in without cleaning his paws...)

G: (crying) I feel like when I’m not around, you’re happy, but when I’m around, you’re angry.
D: (…let’s that sink in…)
G: (still crying)
D: I’m sorry.

D: Ya know, Gus, I think parenting is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
G: Are you saying that you wish you didn’t have me?
D: If I knew then what I know now…
G: What?!?!
D: I’m kidding.
G: But you say it’s the hardest thing.
D: Well, it’s really only the challenging things that are worth doing.
G: Do I challenge you?
D: Every minute of every day.
G: No, I don’t.
D: You’re doing it right now.

G: I never want to move out and leave you and Mom.
D: You say that now…
G: I’ll always say that.
D: Listen. Eight years from now, your car will be packed, and you’ll pull out of that driveway, and you’ll be so excited. Mom and I will be standing on the porch. I’ll have my arm around her like this and I’ll be waving with my other hand like this. As your car turns the corner, she’ll bury her face in my chest and cry.
G: Stop it! I’ll never leave.
D: She’ll cry, and I’ll pat her hair and say: “It’s okay, Natalie. We’re free.”
G: (laughing) Stop it!
D: And then we’ll sell this house and we’ll buy a tiny home in the middle of nowhere.
G: In a place that doesn’t even show up on Google Earth?
D: Yes. And we’ll plant a big garden, as big as this house, and we’ll grow all of our food. Carrots and bell peppers and stuff. And we’ll capture raccoons and squirrels for their pelts and protein.
G: That’s so dumb.
D: We’ll live off the land and off the grid where no one can find us.
G: Not even me.
D: Not even you. But once a year we’ll walk into town and borrow a phone, and we’ll call you, and do you know what we’ll say?
G: What?
D: “Merry Christmas, Gus.”
G: Well, Merry Christmas to you, too, I guess.

D: Hey, Gus. Can we talk about that thing you said earlier?
G: What thing?
D: Remember when you said that you think I’m happier when you’re not around.
G: Yeah.
D: You know that’s not true, right?
G: I think so.
D: It’s not true, Gus. (…thinks for a bit…) What would you say is my favorite thing to do?
G: (smiling) Yell at me?
D: (also smiling) And what’s my second favorite thing to do?
G: You really like to read.
D: True. Have you noticed how I often come and read in your bed with you at night?
G: Yeah.
D: I could read by myself, but I choose to come read with you. Do you know why?
G: Why?
D: Because I like being with you.
G: (nods)
D: What else do I like to do?
G: I don’t know. Play golf.
D: That’s true. Do I have to bring you to the golf course with me?
G: No.
D: Why do I do that?
G: Because you like being with me.

D: Why do you care so much about this grade in math?
G: Because…If I’m not going to play for the Astros or on the PGA Tour, then I need to go to MIT so I can be an astrophysicist.
D: You’re in fifth grade.
G: Exactly…I’m almost in middle school!
D: (rolls his eyes)

D: When you’re a parent, you often go back to what your parents did. They are really the only parents you know.
G: I know a bunch of people’s parents.
D: Yes, but Mom and I are the only ones that you really see parenting all the time.
G: True.
D: One day, if you decide to have a kid, you’ll think back to what we did, and you’ll find yourself doing some of the same things. Hopefully, you’ll also say, “These are the things my parents did right, but these are the things I wish they’d done differently.” Then, you’ll apply that to your kids. I think that’s what good parents do.
G: Yeah. You’re doing your best, but you’re not perfect.
D: Thanks for the reminder.

(On the way home from a baseball game)

D: Hey, Gus: I love you.
G: I know.
D: (Stretches his hand back to the backseat. G grabs it.)
G: I love you, too.

(G is taking a shower upstairs while D sits on the couch, staring into space, happy for a moment of peace. G hums the theme to The Lord of the Rings at the top of his lungs.)

G: (after a brief moment) YEA FOR INDOOR PLUMBING!!!

You probably won’t remember any of these conversations, Gus. But I will. Thanks for being my kid.