Archive for the ‘Dear Evan’ category

Dear Evan: Lucky Birthday Seven

October 27th, 2017

Dear Evan,

You’re seven today! I am shocked and amazed, not that time moves but that it moves so quickly. When I look at you, I expect to see the tiny swaddled bundle we brought home or the curious toddler exploring with a pack of dogs. Now you’re a gangly, long-haired, frustrating, brilliant, hilarious little man.

Evan as Rey from Star Wars The Force Awakens

Maybe you’re reading this tomorrow (you’re a voracious reader like your dear ol’ dad) or maybe in 20 years or maybe never. Whenever, here’s a snapshot of your life at six (and now seven!):

Your three great loves are Pokemon, Lego and Minecraft. You intently peruse encyclopiae about the first, and then create your own. That makes me happy. With that, with Lego, with Minecraft, you are giving form to your imagination — even if just digital form — and inviting me into the world in your head. I’m going to be honest: On Saturday mornings, when the rest of the house is quiet and I’m trying to slurp down enough coffee to feel human, your running patter as you describe what you’re building in Minecraft can get annoying. But I wouldn’t trade it, and I’d never stop it. That’s your world you’re describing. I hope you keep that world-building with you for the rest of your life.

You have shoulder-length thick blond hair this year. Even with a recent trim, you look like Star Wars-era Luke Skywalker. (That is, A New Hope. I expect in your future, they’re up to Episode 23.) I love it. I love tucking your hair behind your ears.

I think I mentioned your reading. You read everything. Eating breakfast? Have to read the cereal box. Two nights ago, I only half put you to bed because you started stacking books to read after lights-out. (I leave your closet light on and often find you asleep on the floor at its doorway, book under one hand.) I still read to you, and right now we’re going through A Wrinkle in Time a chapter per night. You get so excited you often read ahead and then bashfully tell me the next night. I hope you know now how much I love that you jumped ahead. I get it. I love that book too.

Oh, and you are as always incredibly funny. You’ve picked up my love for puns, and throw around your own jokes with joyful abandon. I love it. I haven’t laughed so much in ages.

In nine hours, I’ll leave work and hug your wiry frame and smooch the top of your head. We’ll go for Chinese buffet (you’ve already chosen) and then head home and open presents. Spoiler: I got you a Lego version of an X-wing starfighter and a Pokemon digital watch and a few assorted other Lego toys. Lucky seven.

I love you,


Dear Evan: On the Chicago Cubs Winning the World Series

November 3rd, 2016

Dear Evan:

I was never a baseball fan. My father tried. He took me and your Uncle Benjie to Texas Rangers games, back in the 1970s when shorts were short and metal bleachers sat wavering in the Texas heat. Watching baseball was literally painful.

Fast forward to 2001, when I landed in Chicago and, specifically, near Wrigley field. Near enough to hear the games from the courtyard behind a little 3-flat apartment building. Near enough that we neighbors would put out a portable radio and listen to the games just to make sense of the cheering and, more often, disappointed silences.

The Cubs worked for me. They fit me. They were the Charlie Brown of sports teams, someone you loved but you knew would never get to kick the metaphorical football. The Cubs would never dance with the Little Red-Haired Girl. I could sympathize. The years I spent in Chicago, I would watch the Cubbies from Wrigley Field, or from my friend’s bar, The Dark Horse, or at home with the windows open so I could still hear the crowd live. The Cubs were easy to love.

The Cubs winOne year early on, I was standing at a hat stand just outside Wrigley looking at a smart design from the 1918 Cubs when a home run ball fell to the street maybe 20 or 30 feet away. I didn’t get the ball, but I did buy the hat right then. You still see me wear it almost every weekend, worn and faded now.

Last night, probably 13 years from buying that cap and 2,000 miles from Chicago, you toddled out of your room at almost midnight. I gathered you into my lap. “Look!” I pointed to where men in bright blue were celebrating on our television. “Who just won?”

“The Cubs,” you murmured.

“They just won the World Series!” I was tearing up a little. More than a little. You snuggled against me and half-slept while I watched the celebration.

The Cubs win, I whispered to you. The Cubs win. Holy cow. The Cubs win.

I love you,


Dear Evan: Some Memories

August 16th, 2016

Dear Evan:

This weekend, you and I laid on the floor of our upstairs living room and played Lincoln logs. We built a house for your Rey and Finn Star Wars action figures, plus a garage for Rey’s speeder, a tiny stable for a tiny Lego horse and “campfires” (which of course became deflector shield generators) out of the leftover logs.

Evan at playI wondered: How much of this will you remember?

You’re almost six years old. You won’t remember the specifics. I hope you have a hazy good-feeling memory of playing with your daddy, but beyond that? Lost moments, I think.

I remember a few things from my early youth:
* Walking across a field under dark, about-to-rain skies on the way home from preschool, so probably in Houston.
* Eating Apple Jacks cereal very early morning at a school (maybe the same?). Notable because we rarely ate sugar cereal at home.
* Finding a toy monkey with what I think was real fur (maybe rabbit?) during a yard sale in the courtyard of our townhouse. (Again, I think in Houston.)
* For my birthday or Christmas, I got a little handheld music box — you held it by a handle, and turned a lever on the side to make music, and could watch the gears through a little window — and I remember your uncle Ben and I dancing around a dark living room in the pre-dawn hours like swans (so it must have been “Swan Lake”).
* Later, in Arlington, giggling in the bedroom, supposed to be asleep, with Ben and other kids (including one with a terribly burned arm — I remember marveling at the twisted smooth skin) while our parents watched “Alien” in the living room.

My memory gets better from there on (at least, for now), but it’s a fun game to think back on those fragments and hold them for as long as I can. I hope that someday, you have good fragments, fragments that warm your heart, about us playing on the floor or going to the library every Saturday or sneaking away for donuts. (You always eat a sprinkle donut, half a dozen donut holes, a jalapeno sausage roll and half my jalapeno sausage roll.)

I love you so much,


Dear Evan: How Not to Rape

June 7th, 2016

Dear Evan –

I’m sad to say there’s another college boy in the news for raping one of his classmates, a young woman whose life is now shattered before it ever really got started.

In this case, the boy’s father wrote an insulting letter to the judge moaning about how his boy won’t be able to eat steak for a while (really). Again, the young woman’s life is shattered. She will deal with emotional issues, trust issues, sex issues, depression… but the boy, who got a light sentence, won’t be able to enjoy steak for a while.

Here’s what I’d like: I’d like to not ever have to consider writing such a letter. I love you with all of my heart, but if you so carelessly destroy another person’s life, I can’t support you.

So here are some words of wisdom to keep us away from that place.

1. Don’t rape anyone.
2. Seriously, don’t rape anyone.
3. Don’t get blackout drunk. You can’t control your actions when you’re blackout drunk. You can’t dispute what anyone says you might have done while you were blackout drunk. Have a couple of drinks. Get mellow. Get buzzed. But stop short of being unable to control or account for your actions.
4. Make a plan. Even short of blackout drunk, it’s possible to be unable to give consent. Figure it out with your partner: Discuss, honestly, both in general and before taking your first drink of the night, whether it’s okay to have sex after a few. And then stick to it.
5. If it’s someone new? Then just don’t. Stay in control. Flirt. Be cute. And then end the night alone, and call that person the next day to see whether you can meet at a time when alcohol isn’t involved.

Be smart, kiddo. That may mean having a few drinks less than your friends. It may mean that gorgeous girl makes a pass at you while drunk, and you have to wait until a better time. But better you suck it up and be responsible for a night than ruin someone else’s entire future.

I love you. I love you with all of my heart. I want other people to love you, to think the best of you, to feel safe and cared for around you.

I love you,


Dear Evan: Tell Me More

May 17th, 2016

Dear Evan:

When you’re trying not to cry, your lips curl into a smile. Your face reddens. Your eyes, eyelids already heavy like mine, droop at the outer corners.

You and I were eating dinner last night, and you were asking me about why we hold our thumbs up to make guns out of fingers. I was trying to balance answering (especially confusing because Star Wars guns, the only ones you know, do not have hammers) and stressing why we don’t play guns in our house.

After a few minutes, I watched your face crumple. You were fighting tears, fighting them with everything you had.

I’m not always a good father. Sometimes I tell you to go play Legos so I can play some silly phone game and disconnect my brain. Sometimes I tell you I don’t care if you don’t like what I’m saying.

But sometimes I get it.

“Is everything okay?”

That’s all it took. The floodgates opened and you crawled into my lap and you bawled into my shirt and clutched the neckline in your little fist and I let you get it all out.

A little boy in your class, you told me, said “Stop talking” every time you spoke in preschool class. Every time. Even when it was your turn to talk. He told you that you talk too much.

When you’d gotten it all out, I told you he was wrong. That we love how much you talk, we love that you can express yourself so well. I told you that your teacher is the only one who can ask you to be quiet.

Cold comfort, I know. It helps that tomorrow is the last day of your preschool year, and that you’re headed to a new place for kindergarten. Not that you’ll always be safe there, because bullies live everywhere, but we’ll deal with that when it happens.

I love how much you talk. I love that we hold long conversations in the car or at the dinner table. I love that you still talk to yourself when you play, and that you narrate our backyard Star Wars adventures.

Never stop talking.

I love you,


Dear Evan: Just some thoughts

February 9th, 2016

Dear Evan –

Evan asleep

A boy and his dog

I’ve probably mentioned before — I’m just too lazy to look — how you’ve ruined me for horror. And kids in peril? I wouldn’t even bat an eyelash.

And now. Now I get home from work, and you squeal my name and grin a huge toothy grin and jump into my arms. We play Candy Land and, your favorite, Star Wars Sorry! and always Legos.

You creep into bed with me, no matter how many times I take you back to your own, and scootch so that your feet are touching my back, a reassurance. And I grumble, but it’s a reassurance to me too.

So I can’t be down with scary stories any more where a kid is in danger, or disappears, or is taken over by some demon, and right now that feels like it’s all the horror movies.

I look into your bright blue eyes and listen to your breathless stories about where your Lego creations fit in the Star Wars universe and almost cry because I brought you into a world where entire species are dying off and temperatures are rising and I can’t even let you ride your bike alone around the neighborhood like I once did.

I’m doing better at the fatherhood thing. I’m raising you right, or at least raising you to love everyone and clearly draw the line between right and wrong. I may have instilled a love in you for pepperoni and pineapple pizzas, but I feed you pretty well most of the time.

I don’t have a point here. I don’t have a lesson I’ve learned. We talk so much every day that I just wanted to talk with future you. I need to reach out more often. And I think I can tell you why soon. Future you, that is.


I love you,


Dear Evan: May the Force be with you

December 22nd, 2015

Dear Evan:

Not long ago in a house not so far away, you discovered a stash of my old Star Wars toys, and fell in love with R2D2. Seriously in love. You will sometimes walk around the house, arms straight down (to look like droid legs), whistling instead of talking.

It’s really serious. You own R2 hats, shirts, toys, balloons. R2 accompanies you almost everywhere. I’ve actually stopped playing the “Which Droid Do You Want to Be?” game. (Not true. I pretend to be R5D4, whose motivator breaks as soon as he’s introduced. Then I can sit still while you play.)

I am thrilled. I love that we share this enthusiasm for the story that so captivated me at your age. I love that I can share that with you on this of all years, when we got the first Star Wars movie in a decade, and the first *good* one since I was a child.

We went on Friday, the day it opened, but during the day when crowds were relatively smaller. Your mom and I went the night before to make sure it would be okay, and it was.

It’s difficult to tell what you got out of it. Certainly you asked lots of questions, your breath rich with mac and cheese and chocolate milk, kneeling in your seat and whispering to me. You pulled your R2 knit hat over your eyes only once, during a scene with admittedly scary monsters. You stared in quiet wonder as Poe Dameron swooped his X-wing up and around and through the skies.

You unquestioningly accepted – and I count this as good parenting – a female hero in Rey and a black male hero in Finn. God, I hope your generation continues to accept that we are all strong and valuable and worth being the stars of our own space operas.

I don’t think you totally understood the quieter moments. I know you didn’t. But I know you’ll revisit them, and find a new depth to the movie, as you get older and maybe share it, someday, with your own beautiful loved ones.

I love you,

May the Force be with you,


Dear Evan: Be patient. Help me be patient.

October 12th, 2015

Dear Evan:

Evan keeps Austin weirdI’m sorry I’ve been so impatient lately. I’m sorry I snap at you more than I should. I’m sorry that some days the bad outweighs the good.

I wish I had a good excuse. I’ve looked for one: I’m stretched thin at work; I’m not writing almost at all; I’m not running as much as I should; I’m getting too little sleep.

Your fifth birthday is in two weeks and a day. This morning I read an article about an NFL player who may lose a foot to MRSA, a medically resistant staph infection. It boggles my mind to think that you had a MRSA infection under your chin at eight days old. That you went through surgery at such a young age, spent a month and a half in NICU.

It boggles my mind that that infant, so close to death, is the lanky, intelligent near-5-year-old who keeps up a running monologue of questions while trying to figure out the world.

All you want to do is learn. You want to know it all. And because I’m so tired, I snap at you instead of being your guide to the world. I am sorry.

Last night, during one of my failed attempts to get you to sleep, I tucked you into bed, kissed your cheek and then asked for your hand. When you offered it, I kissed your hand and told you that any time you needed reassurance, that kiss would be ready and waiting.

“Daddy loves me,” you whispered, eyes closed, holding your hand to your cheek. “Daddy loves me. Daddy loves me.”

I love you,


Dear Evan: The Dog Who Ate Zombies

August 7th, 2015

Dear Evan:

Right now, you want to hear scary stories at bedtime. (As a daddy who writes and loves scary stories, this makes me very happy.) For a while, I would read selections from Amphigorey, but lately you want made-up stories.

The thing is, you scare easily. If a bad guy appears on Wild Kratts, you cover your ears and leave the room. I’ve turned off movies and left theaters early. And that’s fine. You’re four years old. I don’t want you hardened to the scary parts of life like I am.

So I had to tell a story and make it, in your words, “scary but not too scary, just a little bit scary.”

Well, there’s the answer.

Of your dogs, by far your favorite is Lil’ Bit, a 14-pound rat terrier with a Napoleon complex. Bit’s breath is legendarily foul. It may be because he eats poop, or it may be because he’s just so damn grumpy all the time. His breath is so bad that it sort of circles around and becomes a thing of wonder. I’ll stick my face right down there and sniff his nose and mouth and ears.

What I won’t do is let him yawn in my face. That’s a registered biological weapon right there.

So here’s how my scary stories go: A monster that you choose threatens a little boy, and a certain rat terrier saves the day by yawning. An example from last night (your choice was “30 zombies”):

Once upon a time there was a spoooooky graveyard, covered in fog, with crooked gravestones everywhere. (I tell this in my best growling Vincent Price voice.) And do you know who lived under those graves?

(Your hands fly to your ears. Your eyes widen. You whisper, “zombies.”)

That’s right. Zombies. Thirty of ‘em. And these were mean zombies. They ate birds and rabbits and… hey, do you know what their favorite food was? (You shake your head.) Little boys.

So one night a little boy walked past the graveyard, and those thirty mean zombies clawed their way out of the ground and said to him, “Little boy we are going to eat. You. Up.”

(Here I’ve almost lost you. You’re about to panic, so I know it’s time to rein it in.)

But do you know who was walking with the little boy that night?

(Here I’ve found you again. Hands come off ears. A huge smile brightens your face.) “Little Bit.”

That’s right! Lil’ Bit was walking with his boy, and he took one look at those mean ol’ zombies and

(Here you and I both yawn.)

he yawned. And those zombies cried, “Oh God! It’s so stinky it’s even stinkier than we are!” And they turned into dust.

(Everything turns into dust after a Bit yawn, even werewolves.)

And that’s it. You laughed and ran back up the stairs to bed. Tonight you’ll ask again, and I’ll have to come up with a story again, and Bit will save the day.


I love you,


Dear Evan: Moving House

June 10th, 2015

Dear Evan:

We are all of us under a huge amount of stress right now. It’s never easy moving house (even if the result will be much more space for all of us). It’s even less easy when factoring in a 4-year-old who has only ever called one place home. We’ve started slipping, letting you watch hours of Paw Patrol and Octonauts while we pack or renovate or clean or fill out paperwork. Your behavior has gone downhill (though you’re still better behaved than most) and I’m ashamed to admit mine has as well. I am short; I lash out verbally more often than I’d like; I retreat into my own head during the few minutes of downtime I can manage.

I wonder whether you’ll remember any of it. I’ve hugged you and explained calmly what’s going on, and that it will all be better soon. I hope that mitigates some of the less good times. I hope that makes up for me snapping at you or asking you to go play alone in your room at times.

I moved around a bit when I was your age, though by 5 or 6 we had settled at the house where I spent most of my formative years. When I dream about a sense of home, that’s the form it takes: a small house in what was then a dusty neighborhood at the edge of a low-end bedroom community. When you are older, will you dream about the house we’re leaving? Will you find yourself back in the cream-and-brown safari-themed room you now occupy? Will you dream of toddling into the lavendar-walled office-slash-guest room, where I spend the first few minutes of weekend mornings playing online before you wake?

Or will your mind take you back to where we, at this point, haven’t been yet? I don’t know what your room will look like, outside the basic dimensions. I don’t know what we’ll do about the upstairs living area, or the large back yard. All good things, but I wish you could tell me, when you read this, send a hint back in time. I wish you could reassure me and take some of this stress off my shoulders.

I love you,