An Open Letter to My Son on His 5th Birthday

You came into the world like a highly anticipated storm, one that you make arrangements for, one that people warn you is going to be noisy and troublesome and dangerous, and no matter how much you prepare you never feel fully prepared. You came with a heavy air that hangs on your lungs.

You changed us.

Five years ago today, we brought home a tiny person who didn’t know how he was supposed to react to us any more than we knew how we were supposed to react to him. We took our cues from books and friends and mentors and pastors, and found them all to be helpful and somewhat inadequate. We learned how to take care of you as we went, just like you, hopefully, learned how much loved you and were there for you.

As you grew, you became more human, less high-maintenance bodily fluid dispenser. You learned, with great intention, how to take care of yourself. You understood the things you had to do—button your shirt, brush your teeth, eat with a fork, the inglorious routine of daily life—long before you were able to do any of them.

But you were patient. And we stood with you while you became self-sufficient right before our eyes.

And we learned right with you and about you, and about ourselves. We discovered our limits and took note of our character.

You revealed to us not only who we wanted you to become, but who we were hoping to see when we looked at ourselves. I saw my selfishness dressed in plain clothes walking with me every day.

You are five today. It’s too early to call you a man, yes, but you’re not a baby anymore. You’re a smart, beautiful, soulful boy. And I am so proud of you.

The years ahead have a lot in store for you. You’re going to get seriously into your schooling, and I want to learn with you. You’re going to start making decisions about your life and who you want to be, and I want to walk right beside you. You’re going to start noticing girls, and I want to be there for you to talk to.

(And if you don’t, that’s OK too.)

If anything, know that I want to be more than an authority figure or role model to you. I want to be a sounding board for great ideas. I want to sit and have long conversations about the things you’re interested in—and I want to tell you about the things that interest me. I want to be your confidante, your cheerleader, your challenger, whatever you need me to be.

But mostly, I want to be with you right where you are.


  1. Beautifully written! I have two young boys myself, ages 6 and 3, so I can relate to every single word of this. Thanks for sharing…he’s lucky to have a father like you. Keep up the great work…and great writing. I enjoy reading your posts.

  2. Came by your blog again to share that I passed this blog address on to my readers. I loved sitting with you over coffee talking about philosophy, and I love reading your thoughts now that we both have families :) Keep the honesty comin’.

  3. Caleb–nice writing; you have very strong and human voice. (And it will be splendid and heart warming for your son to read that at the appropriate/right time).

    On a very completely different side note (professional and respectful)…. I have a permissions request for you and your organization (OFA) from me and my organization (Oxford University Press)… It is in regards to reprinting a social media image that belongs to the OFA in a book to be published by OUP.

    Could you please send me a note at and I will follow up with further details of the request.

    Apologies for the “attack” on personal site soil…

    But thank you in advance for your understanding.


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