Let me be honest with you.
I don't know whether I'm a good man, whether I will be a good father, or even whether I'll ever have the capacity to know - in the moment, at least - whether I'm either of those things. What I do know is that I want to be. And that brings me to one more thing I have to be honest about, and then we can get on with this book.
This book is dedicated to you, your mother, and your grandparents. You, in particular are the inspiration for this book. But it's not for you. It's for me.
I'm not scared to be your father. I'm excited to be your father. I'm prepared to be your father. But I'm not ready to be your father, yet. I think I have the skills, and I think I'm mature enough to be your father (and marrying your mother was definitely the right, God-gifted, choice). I am confident and the joy in my heart builds greater every day for you to be with us.
So now, let’s begin.
Succeeding is simple as long as you ask yourself the right questions. Graduate school - and everything I've read about management that's any good - taught me that the first question to ask yourself before starting any journey is "what result do I want to create?" The idea is, once you clarify exactly what success looks like (and what it doesn't) you can spend all your time working at it, instead of working toward something else.
And I've thought about that a lot as I get closer and closer to being your father. The result I want to create is simple: I want you to be a good person. My job as your father is to mold you into a good person. That's it. I am razor focused on that. Any other result I'm able to create with regard to you is a bonus, gravy on top if you will.
Let me be perfectly up front with you, too - I'm not focused on your happiness. Obviously, I want you to be healthy, happy, and prosperous. And that's what I pray for, every time I bow my head. But I'm not committing to that. For one, you are the only person (and your eventual spouse, perhaps) who can make you healthy, happy, and prosperous. It is difficult for me to admit that I can't guarantee that you will be healthy, happy, and prosperous, but it’s true- that's in God's hands and yours. I will help you in any way that I can, but I won't promise you health, happiness, and prosperity because it simply isn't a promise I can keep.
I can't even promise that I will succeed in guiding you to be a good person. I am a falliable man, just like you will be. But I promise, right now, two things - even if they are the only things I can ever promise you.
I promise you that I will never give up on cultivating the goodness in you. I will work to do that as long as I exist in body, mind, or spirit. How I approach that task will change as you grow older, but I will never give up on it. I will make mistakes, and I will learn from them. I am committed to the challenge because it will be among the most important things I ever attempt. I am in it for the long haul.
One of the books I will read to you one day is East of Eden by John Steinbeck. It is one of my favorites and the most important novel I have ever read. I first read it in high school and I don't even remember most of the plot. What I do remember is it's most important idea - timshel.
One of the characters in the book tells the story of a Biblical passage discussing man's conquering of sin. Something interesting that the character finds is that different translations of the Bible have different understanding of what God says about the matter. One translation says that thou shall conquer sin, implying that a man overcoming his sinning ways is an inevitability. The other translation says that thou must conquer sin, implying that God commands man to overcome his sin. The guidance from these different translations isn't clear (and the relationship of man an sin is obviously important) so the character goes back to the original Hebrew of the passage to see what it says.
The character finds the word timshel which means “thou mayest” conquer sin. So, conquering our sins is not an inevitability and it's not an imperative - it's a choice. A choice! It is up to us whether we become good men. What God says is timshel - that we may conquer our sins, if that is the choice we make.
So you, just like I do, have a choice. I believe that you, and every other person in the history and future of our planet is born as blank slate, but with a seed of goodness sown within. And again, my first promise to you is that I will never give up on cultivating that seed of goodness within you. Which brings me to my second promise.
What Steinbeck reminds us, is that conquering our sin is in our hands. It's our choice. And I may fail to cultivate that goodness in you just as you may fail to cultivate that goodness in yourself. But no matter what happens. No matter how good or wicked you are. No matter how tall or short you are. No matter how wealthy or poor you become, no matter what you look or act like, no matter what - I will always love you, unconditionally, and so will your mother. Always. Always. Always.