Dear Mom & Dad,

Thank you. 

I have a long list of people I’m grateful for, but I’d be a damn fool not to start with you both.

I remember my first fistfight. I was in Grade 6. Monday afternoon, we got out of school early. We played football at the park like we did every half-day Monday. Except that Monday, I came home with a massive red, puffy handprint on my face.

You knew something happened, but you didn’t freak out. You gave me space to explain that Brian Burks, a 7th-grader twice our size, was taunting my friends in a pickup football game. At one point, he crossed the line and I decked him in the jaw. He walked away, but he came back later, with a few 7th-grade friends. Those next few minutes didn’t go well for me. I thought I’d be grounded for a month, but you said I was right to stand up for my friends if that’s what I thought was right. I never forgot that.

Mom & Dad, you taught me independence. You put a house key on a necklace, showed me how to use it, and told me not to lose it. You gave me a brand new, red-and-black BMX bicycle and didn’t restrict where I could go. The other kids in the neighborhood couldn’t cross the Parkway, but you never put those boundaries on me. (In hindsight, maybe you knew I’d go across anyway, so you didn’t bother with the charade). 

You passed up promotions so you could be at all my basketball and baseball games. You were there when we won a state championship, and you were there when we failed to win a single game. The outcome didn’t matter. You watched me sing in the school’s production of “Under the Sea,” and somehow kept straight faces. I was awful and you knew it, but you praised me for trying. 

You made sure I never let anyone think they were better than me, but you also made sure I never thought I was better than anyone. You taught me when to fight, but you also taught me when not to fight and let things go. You taught me to make good decisions, and how to be confident with those decisions, but to be humble enough to evaluate those decisions later so that I would know when to pivot. You taught me to live with a test-and-learn mentality before that ever became a thing in tech circles. Whatever hopes you may have had for me, I can confidently say I haven’t failed you on this point. 

Mom & Dad, I couldn’t have asked for better parents. Every time I face a struggle or I feel that something is unfair, I remind myself that I’m already way ahead of life’s luck balance because I always had you in my corner and still do.

I don’t say this to your faces enough, if ever. So I’m writing it here hoping it will become easier to say. 

Thank you.