You didn’t cry.
Thirty-seven hours of labor. In and out of the hospital. Your heart rate rising and falling until your doctor decided it was time to go and get you. Mommy was given medicine and fell asleep. I waited in the hallway with your aunt Tara and both of your mom-moms. They wheeled you out around midnight and the hospital policy was that I was the only one that could hold you before mommy woke up.
We sat in that room together for two hours and you looked up at me with deep eyes. You didn’t cry. You just watched me.
I found a note the other day from when you were three. I worked a later shift at the time and we spent many mornings watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse at 5:30 am on the couch and, at the time, we didn’t think anything of it. We thought you were just an early riser.
Then you were busy.
You ran before you could walk. Literally, not a joke, ran across the living room floor before most kids took their first unsure steps. We hit every playground in the area. You climbed, jumped and played with the best of them. We tried sports as soon as we could. You played soccer, baseball, basketball, football, anything you could throw and catch.
When you were happy you were happy. When you got mad, you started to get mad, like really mad. You became a swirl of sadness and anger wrapped into a screaming package.
Your brother came along when you were four and, for a little, things were okay.
The anger got deeper. You got stronger and the combination wasn’t the best thing for us. Still, we thought, it is just a phase. You’ll grow out of it. You’ll keep getting older and things will calm down.
Then one day you told me you couldn’t get a thought out of your head.
Now, let me put this in context. You’ve grown. You are strong and fast, talented in anything that requires athletic ability. You still feel deeply, you still find your heart-broken more than you’d like. You want things your way and you hate criticism.
You have made friends and lost them. People have cycled in and out of your life. The day you told me you couldn’t get a thought out of your head, it stands out now. At the time, I tried to avoid it.
Then it got worse.
You obsessed over thoughts and feelings, things that weren’t right. Your worry started to take over your life. Things that were easy weren’t easy anymore. We went to the doctor and we tried and your mom and I still told ourselves that this too will pass.
The other night we were looking at a math homework sheet and you were having trouble focusing. I asked you what was going through your mind. You looked at me and said things were all “scribbly”. I still hear you saying it.
I want you to know something.
It will all work out. Your mother and I are here for you. You are still that kid that I held in the hospital. You are still busy and you still feel deeply. Whatever is going on in your head is real and, even though we’ve waited five years, it may not be going away.
So we will get you help. We will stand by you as your mom and dad. We will give you the support you need in school and outside of school.
We will do this for you and we will be your advocates. We will be on your team and we will attack this stuff now and get it knocked down and manageable. We will get you your life back.
We will pray for you. Everyday.
We will talk to the doctor, the therapist, anyone we need to get a team around you to help you because we can’t do it alone.
Carter, I love you more than you’ll ever know. I’m typing this at my desk taking breaks between paragraphs to wipe away the tears and hope that no one notices.
I’m sorry for my frustrations, my irritation, my anger. I owe you more than this. I owe you a better father and better role model. You deserve a better man than me to follow.
But I promise you, today, I’m going to work on it, to get better, to be that father you deserve.
Just know I’m sorry. I’m here for you. I’m still holding you 9 years later and you’re still looking up at me and I promise things will get better.
We’ll do this, as a family.