Sunday, November 29, 2009


Dear Spike:

Bad news — you can spell "ice cream" and "candy" — and probably a bunch of other words that we spell around you when we don't want you to know what we're talking about. Effective immediately, our new "secret adult language" is Spanish. And when you catch onto that, I guess we'll move to Pig Latin. After that, I'm calling in the Navajo Code Talkers.

I can hardly keep up with all the ways in which you are learning and growing. Let's see: You've finally mastered your tricycle, you're sleeping without a diaper, you know every letter of the alphabet and words that start with each one.

I can't begin to explain how proud I am of you, but I try to let you know as often as I can. And it's my plan to make that a habit.

Two and a half years into this game, I'm still no expert in being a dad, but there's a few things that I'm relatively sure of.

One is that I've got to help you make good decisions by correcting your bad ones — as early as possible. It's no fun for me to send you to your "timeout corner" for doing things that you don't even know are wrong, but that's the way your mother and I have decided is best to help you understand that certain behaviors aren't tolerable — not even once.

Another thing I've learned is that we are your biggest, best and most influential examples. It doesn't do any good for me to tell you to stop picking your nose if I've got half a finger dug into mine. It doesn't do any good to tell you to say "please" and "thank you" if I don't do it myself. And it doesn't do any good to tell you to love your neighbor if you don't see me loving mine.

I've learned that sometimes even the best of two-year-olds still act like two-year-olds. I've learned that sometimes even parents with the best of intentions still act like parents without a clue.

But most of all, I've learned that the best thing I can say to you, when I don't have anything else to say, is "I love you," followed closely by "I'm proud of you."

I love you. And I'm proud of you.

I love you. And I'm proud of you.

I love you. And I'm proud of you.


Thursday, November 19, 2009


Dear Spike:

You've had bad dreams before, of course. We know this because you sometimes wake up screaming or crying. Sometimes you sprint into our room and leap into our arms, you tiny body shaking in our embrace. Other times you just simply sob softly in your sleep.

But you've never been able to explain your nightmares to us before. Not until this morning, that is. That's when you came, sobbing uncontrollably, to your mother and explained that you had dreamed that she made food for me and none for you.

I can't explain this dream. And I can't even explain to you why we have bad dreams at all — although psychologist Antti Revonsuo has an interesting theory: He suggests that nightmares serve the evolutionary purpose of allowing our species to "rehearse" for facing various threats and in so doing prepare us to better face those threats in real life.

I suppose I can see some logic to that hypothesis inherent in the terribly sad dream you had this morning. We don't fret as much as we once did about your weight, but everytime you find a friend on the playground who is your same age I am reminded of just how very small you still are. Food is important for everyone, but it is especially important for you. I promise that we would never forget to feed you — let alone purposefully ignore your needs, as you dreamed this morning — but I guess I can see how preparing for this threat subconsciously would be worthwhile in a Darwin-meets-Maslow-meets-Freud sort of way.

But fear defined is no less frightening, so even if that explains the reason for your dreams, it certainly won't make it any easier to wake up in a cold sweat with your heart pounding and your fists clenched as tight as clamps.

I understand. I have bad dreams, too. Every night, when I close my eyes, I see death and sadness and evil and emptiness. And so I don't get a lot of sleep.

There are, of course, just two things you can do when confronted by fear: You can run from it, or you can face it.

And when you can muster the courage to do so, face it.

Face it because, when you do, you'll likely learn something about yourself you didn't know before.

Face it because, when you do, you'll likely find that many of your fears are not so frightening as you once dreamed.

Face it because, if you don't, you'll just have to keep running.

And, if for no other reason, face it because I so often have chosen not to. And I know that I am no better for all the running I've done in my life — just more tired.

I'm sorry you had such a bad dream this morning. I hope you won't have the same dream again.

But if you do, when you wake up, your mother and I will be here to hold you. And then we'll make you the biggest breakfast ever, just so that you understand: Dreams are just dreams. And every bad night deserves a beautiful morning.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Dear Spike:

It's 3:02 in the morning. You've been in and out of sleep all night.

And that's the story of your life.

I wish I knew what to do to help you sleep more, but the truth is that I've been stumped. We've tried feeding you at bed time and not feeding you at bed time. We've tried giving you milk and not giving you milk. We've tried black noise and total silence. We've tried nightlights and no lights. We've tried ignoring you and being with you.

I supposed that this is just one of those things about parenting, and maybe about life. Sometimes you just don't have the answers.

Sometimes you don't have a clue.

It's 3:07 a.m. now, and you're back up again.


Sunday, November 15, 2009


Dear Spike:

"Mommy, my leg hurts."

"Your leg hurts? Where does it hurt?"

"Right here."


"Right here!"

"Honey, that's not a hurt. That's blueberry from your cheesecake."

"It hurts."

"Want me to lick it off?"

"Yes Please."

"What do you say?"

"Thank you."


Sunday, November 8, 2009


Dear Spike's Friends:

It's been a while since I last wrote to you, and I've been pretty lousy about checking the comments on Spike's blog, so I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank you all for your kind words, your sage advice and your wonderful support.

Some of you have been reading Spike's letters for more than three years, now. You've laughed with us and cried with us and cheered Spike on, every step of the way, even though many of us have never met.

I can't begin to tell you how fortunate I feel knowing that Spike has developed such a wonderful "cyber family." You're the best, and we love you.

I'm not writing to deliver any big announcement. I promise to keep on putting Spike's letters online so long as you keep coming around to visit.

As you've probably noticed, I've slowed down the pace of my letter-writing over the past year — owing both to my crazy-busy schedule and to the fact that I can now actually have conversations with my beautiful and intelligent daughter. But I plan to keep writing Spike up until she runs off to college — and maybe even after that.

Thanks for reading. And thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for all of your support.

best wishes,
(spike's dad)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Dear Spike:

Your mother and I have been married for more than seven years now and although things aren't always perfect, I've never regretted my decision to commit myself to her. She is my hero and my best friend. And I cannot fathom what my life would be like without her.

So it might be strange for you to hear me say that, every now and again, I regret that we got married.

Let me explain.

Today, voters in Maine shot down a law that would have allowed gay couples to marry. In doing so, Maine became the 31st state where voters have decided that the right to marry should be limited to those who look like your mother and I do.

By the time you are old enough to be president, today's vote will be yet another sad footnote in our nation's history. Older Americans, who oppose gay marriage in great numbers, are taking their interpretations of Old Testament scripture to the grave. Younger Americans, those who will be voting for decades to come, simply do not care to mix religion and politics, particularly when it comes to depriving fellow citizens of their rights.

Like segregation and anti-suffrage, this too shall pass.

But today I am sickened. Heartbroken. Angry.

And I am left wondering: What good is marriage?

What good is marriage if it does not represent love?

What good is marriage if it does not represent commitment?

What good is marriage, if it does not represent the will of two people to stand by one another, for richer and for poorer, for better or for worse, forever and ever?

Of course, for most of us — heterosexual and homosexual alike — marriage represents all of those things. Marriage is love and commitment and the will to stand together, through all of life's challenges, because life is too damn hard to stand alone.

But the marriage certificate that your mother and I signed seven years ago? That little slip of paper filed away in a box somewhere in the basement of the Benton County Courthouse in Corvallis, Ore.? That legal testament to our love?

It is meaningless to me. Worthless to me. And perhaps it is fortunate that today we live so far away from the town where we were married, because I feel a burning compulsion to march into that courthouse, demand that piece of paper and tear it up, shred by tiny shred.

Yes, today I regret that we got married. I regret that we felt compelled to ask for a rubber stamp from a government that does not offer that same easy endorsement to anyone who loves the way your mother and I love. I regret that we felt the need to ask permission to love one another from this nation of the people, by the people and for all the jealous, greedy, judgmental people.

I do not regret the way I love your mother. Not one bit.

I do not regret the day I stood, holding her hands and looking into her eyes, and promised to love her, to cherish her, to honor her and to be there for her forever.

I do not regret the dance we danced or the cake we cut or the toasts we made.

Not one bit.

But I'd burn that marriage certificate. By God, I would.


Sunday, November 1, 2009


Dear Spike:

For weeks, you've been telling anyone who would listen:

"I'm going to be a bumble bee for Halloween!"

And so you were. You visited some of our neighbors with a "trick-or-treat, buzz buzz buzz" and claimed enough candy to last you through Christmas.

This morning, when you woke up, you asked if you could go trick-or-treating again. And you didn't seem to understand why Halloween doesn't come around more often.

But we know. The world just can't take this much cuteness more than once a year.