These are the words I read at my daughter’s dedication, on behalf of her mother and myself. She is a year old this week.
We are thrilled to have you in our lives. We are honored to be your parents. We love you.
We’re also a little bit worried that we don’t deserve you, that we’re not going to be very good parents, and that we’ll mess you up and give you all sorts of unpleasant neuroses. But we also think you’re probably resilient enough to survive and even thrive through whatever we, and life, throw your way. Here’s hopin’.
You have taught us, in just these twelve months, that you have a will all your own. You are perceptive, engaging, wonderfully joyful–most of the time–and you radiate love and contentment.
We don’t imagine for a second that we can control you or your path in the world with our parenting, that we can determine who and what you’ll become, or that we have a clue about how you should live your life. But we do have hopes and dreams for you. Not hopes and dreams about specific things (though your dad hopes you’ll play capoeira with him someday, and your mom hopes you’ll ride horses with her someday), but hopes and dreams about the kind of person you’ll be.
We hope you’re a good person. We hope you’re a kind and a courageous person. We hope you’re the kind of person that inspires other people to be better than they’ve been.
We hope, when you meet the poor, the oppressed, and the miserable, that you look them in the eye.
We hope, when you meet the rich, the privileged, and the smug, that you look them in the eye.
We hope that you comfort the afflicted, and that you afflict the unjustly comfortable.
We hope that you question the pretenses of the powerful, like Socrates. We hope that you question the value of clinging to treasures, like the Buddha. And we hope that you question the religion of the establishment, like Jesus.
We hope that you embrace simplicity, and the cause of the poor, like Dorothy Day. We hope that you embrace nonviolence, in thought and in deed, like Dr. King. And we hope that you embrace the dream of a better world, like all of us here at Milwaukee Mennonite, and like all the revolutionaries, the hippies, and the dreamers throughout the ages.
May you be strong and confident. May you be open-minded and empathetic. May you be bold, slow to anger, and quick to apologize. Speak your mind. And take care that what’s on your mind is worth speaking. Grow always in love and in wisdom.
Life is short–too short to be worried about screwing up, or to be worried about putting your foot in your mouth, or whatever. May you live, unapologetically. May you enjoy life, so much so that your joy spreads contagiously to those around you. And may you be surrounded by good friends on those days when joy is easy to find, and on those days when it is hard to find.
Whatever you do, whoever you become, we love you, and we will always love you, unconditionally.
Your mom and dad.