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Letters to My Children
by
Russell Bittner

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Title: Letters to My Children

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What follows (part dialogue, part monologue, mostly rumination) is a series of letters I wrote to my two children on their respective birthdays over the course of 21 years.

The first is one I wrote to my son on his day of birth: November 25, 1991; the last is one I wrote to my daughter leading up to her 18th birthday on June 8, 2012. Some letters are missing from this publication: they’re either lost to other computers, other hard drives, other floppy discs, or are still in storage in the Bronx. I may or may not be able to recover them ever again.

What, then, is—and was, from its genesis—the rationale for these letters?

Quite simply, a desire to recall, as accurately as possible, the physical, moral and cognitive development of my two children year by year and blow by blow, as they grew from infancy to toddlerhood, and from childhood to adolescence. But why? So that if they ever needed to, they could one day look back and understand a large part of what made (and makes) them who they are as adults in all of their scintillating functionality ... or dysfunctionality.

This publication may or may not prove to be a worthy addition—or at least a scantily-­clad footnote—to the ever-­raging debate of Nature vs. Nurture. I’m not a psychologist. I’m a writer … “with a gift [or at least a head] for fiction” (David Mamet, STATE AND MAIN) to boot. And so, I must issue a warning: caveat lector!

That said, these letters are the foundation of a truth I aspired to establish early on with my children. What I conveyed often enough orally to my son from the moment he could understand English—namely, “You don’t lie to me; I won’t lie to you”—was never easy for either of us to embrace. And in some sense, at least, I made my part of the bargain easier by concealing lots of difficult truths until his 18th birthday (2009), when I suspected he’d be better able to handle those truths in written form.

He was. And he did.

On that basis, and once I’d returned to Brooklyn (less than a month ago), I decided to risk the same with my daughter — and consequently gave her all of the letters I’d addressed to her and that I could still access.

But why — the skeptic in you may yet wonder — should anyone have any interest whatsoever in an otherwise private correspondence between a father and his children? I can’t say that anyone will. That said, no one has published — or even written — a series of letters to his or her children over the course of nineteen years (if one includes each child’s day of birth). At least, not that I know of. While much of what occurs to a child gets lost in the shuffle—or worse, gets suppressed, only to raise its arrogant head in some other form(s) in adulthood—these letters are an attempt to remedy that loss.

The events that first kept us together as a family unit—but then blew us apart—were nothing I could’ve anticipated in my wildest dreams or nightmares. The strategies my children and I have employed to keep us close over the years are ones the children of estranged parents will hardly consider novel. But the words my two children said/wrote to me are some of the kindest and most charitable I’ve ever heard out of the mouth/pen of *any* child.

In that sense, this collection is a gift to all parents for whom it’s not already too late. Not every father has the free time I’ve had over the years, or a facility with writing candidly about his feelings towards his children. No matter. I don’t know that such a facility is really all that important; I rather think it’s the gesture, the consistency, the promise made and kept.

As we say in English, however, “the proof is in the pudding.­” The royalties, should there be any, are entirely theirs—as are the responsibilities that will come with publishing a book.

Therefore and henceforth, I'll let them speak for themselves.

As of this Father’s Day in 2012 — just as on other Father’s Days in years past — I couldn’t be happier with either of them.

For the moment, QED

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