Reading My Son A List of Things I Want Him to Know About Marriage

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Tristan asked me to sit next to him before he fell asleep.
It was a Sunday evening, and now that Tristan is 7 years old, he doesn’t ask
for that as much as he used to. He’s a little too cool for that sort of thing
now.
I jumped at the chance.
I sat at the foot of his bed, my back against the wall, legs
flat against the bed, with my laptop. Tristan’s head was propped on my leg and
he was facing the screen. I was commenting on my blog’s Facebook page that has
become somewhat of a constant effort in recent months. I was happy and
overwhelmed by this at the same time.
Two weeks earlier, I’d published a list of 11 things I’d like my son to know about marriage in the Huffington Post. I was checking to
see how many shares it had, when Tristan said, “What did you want me to know
about marriage?”
I’m surprised by how easily I forgot that Tristan could
read. He’s only been reading well for less than a year, and sometimes I don’t
think about that when I surf the web next to him. I honestly didn’t have
intentions of reading him this list until he was older. I didn’t know just what
age that would be, I just assumed that it would be sometime down the road.
Perhaps he would be 16 years old, or maybe I would read it to him on his
wedding day. Perhaps, by then, my list for him would have changed. I seem to be
learning new things about marriage every day, and maybe by then I would have
something more profound to say. Perhaps I would’ve thrown the old list out, and
started a new one.
I got scared when Tristan asked about this list, and I’m not
sure why. Maybe it was because I’d written it several months ago, and I
couldn’t recall exactly what I’d put in it. Maybe there was something he didn’t
need to know just yet, like something about sex. So I closed my list, and
Tristan said, “Let me see it! I want to see it.”
I thought about it for a moment. I wondered if he was too
young to know this sort of information, and then I realized that when I wrote
this thing, it was more about me than him. Writing that it was a list for my
son, really was more of a vehicle for me to say what I wanted to about
marriage. But now he knew about the list, and I had to let him see it. Despite
all the negative comments the list had received on Facebook and in the
Huffington Post comments section. And despite all the positive comments, also.
I had to stand by what I said where it mattered most, with my son. Those other
people, they didn’t really matter to me right then. They were strangers.
I opened the list again and started reading. I went through
the bold headings on the list, but then I explained what each heading meant in
words that I thought Tristan would understand. 
I didn’t read it verbatim because I didn’t know if he would get it. And
I didn’t know how much of it he read for himself.
“No one will frustrate you more than you wife,” I said.
“That’s a good thing, buddy. It means that your wife will keep you on your
toes. She will help you become a better person.”
Tristan didn’t say anything, he just looked at the screen
with an eager soft face, one that reminded me of when I was his age and had
been introduced to something from the adult world.
I went on, reading the list and explaining.
“You are not the only one with an opinion.” “Sometimes she
needs to be left alone.” “Tell her she’s beautiful every day.” And so on. I
told him that he needed to bring his wife flowers, and he said, “You do that
for mom.”
“Yeah,” I said. “I try to. But I should do it more often.”
For most of the list, I don’t think he really got what I was
saying. But once I got to number 8: Get up in the night with your kids, he
started asking questions.
“Why would you say that?” he said.
“Because some guys don’t think that they have to get up in
the night. They think that’s the mom’s job.”
“Why?” he said. He looked confused.
“I don’t know,” I said. “It seems strange to me, too. Do you
like it when I get up with you in the night?”
Tristan rolled over and looked up at me. “Yeah,” he said. “If
I have a scary dream, I come to you. But once you were gone, so I had to go to
mom. When I was sleeping over at Mark’s house, I had a scary dream, and I
really wanted to sleep next to you, but I couldn’t.”
“I get up in the night because I love you,” I said. “I love
you a lot.”
“Yeah,” he said. “I know you love me.”
I didn’t realize it at the time, but suddenly we were having
a very grown up conversation. Tristan sneaks these in every once in a while,
and it seems amazing and scary at the same time. Amazing because he is
obviously growing up so fast, and scary for the same reason.
I reminded Tristan of my real father, how he left when I was
young, and that I never really knew if I loved him. “Just hearing you say that you know I love you means a
lot to me. It makes me feel like I might just be doing a good job at this whole
dad thing.”
Tristan sat up, crouched on his knees, and then started
softly knocking on my head with his fist. 
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“Knocking on your head,” he said with a big smile.
“Who do you expect to answer?” I asked.
“A big juicy fart,” he said. Then he covered his tummy and
fell over with laughter.
The moment we were having was over, and I was reminded
that he was still a little boy. 
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Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife,
a video game obsessed little boy, and a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play
dress. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood,
he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His
essays on parenting and marriage have been featured in New York Times, The Washington Post, The
Huffington Post
, Scary
Mommy
, The Good Men Project, and elsewhere. He lives in
Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter

Photo by Lucinda Higley

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Comments
  • goyisherebbe

    I'm impressed. I had a father who had grown up with no good example of how to be a father. He struggled with it and didn't do too well. Once my brothers and I were very judgmental but we got over it. It took a long time. Now, in the blink of an eye, our own kids are grown. The moments pass. Now it's grandparenting. Bless you and all parents everywhere.