There is a lot I want to teach you in life, but one of the most important things I can tell you about achieving your goals is to set habits and systems in place early and often. Here’s why:
If you have a dream, which we adults call “goals,” then the only way to achieve that dream/goal is to set systems and habits in place to reach that dream/goal. If your dream is to be an astronaut, then the only way to do that is to learn as much as you can as often as you can about space, astronauts, NASA, etc. You can’t want something bad enough without putting in an equal amount of action to make it real.
[pats you on the back]
You’re too young to worry about this now, but this is something your mom and I are trying to do to ensure that you have every opportunity to realize whatever dreams you have as you grow up. We are making new habits and systems for ourselves in what goals we’re trying to accomplish for ourselves, as well as habits and systems as parents to ensure you have the best childhood.
And the best childhood doesn’t mean you’re happy and laughing 24/7. Here’s an example:
When you were young (you’re 1, so saying when you were young sounds funny), your mom bought video that taught us how to create sleep habits for you. This system allowed us to teach you how to sleep, and now you are a rock star sleeper, at least at night, which allows you to wake up every day with energy and that big smile on your face.
“You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.”
― James Clear, Atomic Habits
I love the above quote because it is so true. Goals are not reached because of one massive action that you take, day after day, because that is not sustainable. You’ll burn yourself out and eventually relapse. Find a system that allows you to be happy, and set that trajectory upward.
[sips whiskey; jingles ice in glass; finishes whiskey]
Like I said, this is all for down the line. Your mom and I will worry about setting systems in place as parents for you now, and you’ll hopefully take our example and set them up for yourself once you’re ready. All you have to do now is continue to be you, maybe be you without throwing your food on the floor so Rogue can share your dinner with you, but otherwise be you.
The last thing I’ll say about habits and systems is that they encourage you to take your time, which is something I want to make sure you do in life. The key is to take your time while always taking action. Don’t procrastinate, but understand that small actions early and often will lead to big changes later in life. Effort is compounding.
There are just a few days before you turn one, and I want to give you an idea of what this last year has been like for your mom and I. Before you were born, I think we were both very nervous about the costs of bringing a child into this world, the lack of sleep we’d grown accustomed to, and many other things that I have to believe most parents feel before they have a child.
The most important thing I can tell you is that I am most happy that you are you. What I mean by that is that your little personality, from the way you laugh and point out school buses as they drive by to the way you put your head down and crawl with intention, is so perfect and fits who your mom and I are to a T.
You’re a happy baby for 23 1/2 hours a day, and I am so thankful for that. I am more thankful that you’re healthy, because a lot of people we know aren’t as lucky as we are. I know this might not be the case forever, but I will count my blessings now because to this point, you’ve been pretty perfect.
Your favorite word is “dada.” Unfortunately, you call me “dada,” Rogue “dada,” Deb “dada,” and even your mom “dada” more often than she’d like. You also hit her with a “mama” which melts her heart, so maybe amp that up a little in year 2 if you want to keep her wrapped around your finger.
Your favorite thing is your dog, and he’s come around on you I think thanks in large part to your willingness to share your meals and snacks with him. We had one little incident where he tried to yell at you and “alpha” you, but your dad took care of that situation pretty quickly, and aside from a few iffy moments, that is all behind us. Still careful not to let you bang on him when we’re not right there, but for the most part, I think you two are besties (even if he wants to stand in between you and your parents to get some attention 99.9% of the time).
Your favorite food is anything your mom or I are eating, which can be eggs, pancakes, pizza… We’ve moved our dinners to 7:30 most nights because it can be a little tough to eat while you’re climbing up on us and trying to make our plant your plate.
You LOVE baths. Before bed, we will ask you if you want to take a bath, and because you’re so smart, you get excited, yell “bah!” and start crawling toward the stairs.
Side bar: I time you when you crawl up the stairs. I think the second or third time you did it, it was 32 or 34 seconds. Now you get distracted half way up, and can barely break a minute. Hoping this birthday will set you straight and we can get back to our speed work.
The best part about being your dad is that everything I thought I was afraid of, the money and the lack of sleep and everything else, is such a small tax on what has become the biggest joy in my life. I love everything about you and want nothing more than to see you grow up, explore, and find happiness. I want to be your best friend and can’t wait to play baseball and basketball with you, go golfing with your mom and your cousins (who have a head start on that, but your superior athletic genes will allow you to catch up in no time), go running and see you do some kids OCR races (I hope I hope I hope) and so much more.
I can’t wait to teach you things, and to stay up late with you watching movies, and to have secrets (it’s boy stuff, mom). It amazes me how much I want for you because it goes so far beyond what I want for myself, but I know that to show you how to get those things, it means being an example. I guess what I mean by that is you make me want to be better just for being YOUR dad.
This first year has been the best year of my life, and I can’t wait to celebrate your birthday with you. All your favorite people are coming (ahem, Gma), and I’m excited to turn the page to another year full of adventures, firsts, and lots of love and laughter.
There is going to be a time when you grow up. It seems like it happens a little bit each day, and I look back a month ago at who you were and it blows my mind how much you’ve changed. I think that growing up is something that is so much more apparent when you’re young, but seeing you grow into a little boy reminds me that we’re all growing up a little bit more each day.
There is going to be a time, maybe 18 or 19 years from now, when you and I sit down and listen to a John Mayer album called Continuum. The whole thing is about John growing up from your 20s into his 30s, but also about how that looks from his dad’s point of view. As we listen to the songs, I am going to remind you that while time feels like it drags on in the moment, there is a much bigger picture with a much bigger story to learn from.
Right now, you’re in the room next to me fighting a nap. You have your whole life in front of you and it’s been the best thing in the world seeing you grow from an infant into this little boy that I love so much. I think your mom wants to hit the pause button and keep you young forever, but I am most excited to learn, teach, and grow together with you.
Because that’s the thing. Until your mom and I got married, I kind of felt like I was growing on my own. I had my own things and sure, my parents guided me in a lot of ways, but I never felt like it was something that we did “together.” Then when your mom and I got together, it felt a little bit like we were on this single path. We stopped eating meat together. We focused on happiness, fitness, and then family. Now that you’re here, I feel like this whole new stage of growth is happening to all of us.
I love seeing you learn things by experiencing them. I love seeing you stand next to a door, look around, and decide whether or not to try stepping away from the door. I love seeing you laugh after you get everyone’s attention by clap-clap-clap — pause — and go about your business. You are going to be something else as you continue to grow, and I can’t wait to be by your side as long as you’ll let me.
Growing up is something that only seems to happen in the past. Plans, dreams, goals all happen ahead of us, but growth is only realized by looking backward. If I could teach you one thing, it would be that growth DOESN’T actually happen in the past, but it is a constant in our lives. You are growing all the time, developing all the time, and evolving into who you are and who you’re meant to be all the time. Growth leads us to where we want to go, and it’s so important to realize that as you make daily decisions in the present.
Now that you’re done fighting your nap and settled in, I’m also reminded that it is OK to slow down. Growth might be happening all the time, but we have to be OK to take a step back, take a good nap, and reset.
I love you with every part of who I am, who I’ve been, and who I’ll be. You are my absolute favorite thing and you always will be. Don’t be afraid to be who you are, and understand that you can still grow up and be the goofy, super-smart, amazing person that you are and will always be.
I’m sorry. Due to some technical difficulties and a busy holiday season, I haven’t written to you. I’m not making excuses. If I wanted to figure it out, I would have. That’s on me. Let’s move on…
You just turned 11 months old the other day, and holy f#*%^ing moly things have changed since I’ve last written you. You’re basically walking, identifying me, your mom, your dog, your Deb, and the school buses in the neighborhood.
But before we get into things, check you out, you stud you!
Anyone, now that we’re past the whole “four months no posts” thing, we can move forward. You are an amazing little man, Reagan James. In the past four months, you’ve visited family in Orlando and Cleveland, had your first Christmas and New Year (spoiler alert, neither you nor your parents made it till midnight), and amped up your personality tenfold. Seriously, if you took a personality test, you’d set the bar. You’re a goof ball, you love your dog, and you’re so smart.
Next big to do for you is your first birthday. Not going to ruin the surprise, but let’s just say it’s going to be one heck of a hot dog day.
(it’s Mickey Mouse Clubhouse themed)…
Anyway, best that I wrap this up since I haven’t posted in months and the last thing I want to do is sit on this any longer before posting. The last thing I’ll say is that you’re the best little man your mom and I could possibly have in the house, you make my whole day just from the first moment I see you in the morning, and your mom and I love you so so much.
The other day, you turned seven months old. What this means is
a. it’s been a few weeks since I’ve last written you (sorry)
2. you have lots of new skills that I haven’t mentioned to you yet
d. Rogue hasn’t eaten you yet, so things are progressing nicely
You can pretty much sit up all by yourself, which is cool, and you’re eating solid foods. You’re in this “I don’t want my bottle in the afternoon” phase, which is not cool, but your mom and I are persistent and we usually get it down one way or another.
Last week, we took some family pictures in the same place we did our pregnancy announcement pictures. You did great, and the whole thing went pretty easily. We don’t have the pics yet, but I’ve seen some of the proofs and they look great.
We also took advantage of our pool for the first time this summer one day before it was set to shut down, despite the fact that it is still 90* outside — you loved it! Your mom and I figured you’d be a water baby based on how much you like taking baths (evidence below).
Your mom showed me a side-byside-by-side picture of you at one month, four months, and just now seven months all in the same chair. It’s crazy how much you change. You went from this little baby to this little boy with all the personality in the world and the biggest and best cheesy smile. I’m sure you’ll be crawling and walking in no time.
The other thing we love is you cruising around in your little scooter. We’re considering changing your name to “scoots” because you are a pro in this thing. Rogue is not the biggest fan of this thing, as you have a way of bull rushing him and he doesn’t know what to do.
Other things you are into these days are:
not finishing your bottle
sitting on the front porch and neighborhood watching
walks around the neighborhood while mom wears you
water – pool, bath, washing hands
Mickey’s Clubhouse and the Hot Diggity Dog Song
I just want to end this by saying that I love being your dad. I think you’re the coolest guy I know and I can’t wait to continue watching you grow each day, and see what the next thing you learn to do is because it’ll be just as exciting for your mom and I as it is for you!
Something that struck me the other day is that you will only know me as the person I am now, and will be in the future. You won’t know me the way your mom knew me, nor will you know me the way my mom knows me. And that’s OK, but I think it is important if you know more about who I was when I was young.
I grew up in a few different places. First, there was the little red house in Reynoldsburg where your Uncle Jordan and I lived with your Grandpa Rauch and Grandma (GM) Whitt. We had a lot of woods in our back yard where we would play with the neighborhood kids, and a church softball field where we would play baseball. I remember we would use big rocks as bases because the church would remove the bases when they weren’t being used. My two best friends were Eric Fryer and Trent Spangler. Trent’s grandpa had a baseball field named after him in Reynoldsburg, and Eric and I played baseball together for a few years, and he went on to play a little in the pros.
I also liked playing Nintendo, lining up Matchbox cars with your uncle Jordan and racing them from one side of the table to the next to see which was fastest, and watching football with your grandpa Rauch.
We moved to Hollywood, Florida after my mom and dad got divorced when I was about 9 or 10. I remember being angry about it for a long time, but as I grew up and saw how much happier each of them turned out with where their lives would go, I came to understand things a lot better. We moved to a city named Coral Springs, and it was more baseball and hanging out with my friends Zach Weiner, Johnny McPherson, and some kids around the neighborhood. We would rollerblade, play basketball at the park, listen to alternative music and wear Airwalk shirts and wallets with chains. I was a skater kid who could barely skate, but it was fun for me.
Also in Florida, your Grandpa Whitt came along and married your grandma. This was a big change for everyone, and I think I had a hard time with it for awhile because of the initial divorce. But I liked your grandpa Whitt and I knew your grandma liked him, and we eventually became friends. He ended up being one of, if not the most important people in my life. He showed me what it means to work hard and not accept things if they don’t fall in your favor. I hope he and I both can teach you those same things.
I came back to Ohio after a few years and moved to Gahanna where your Whitt family lived (and mostly still live). Around this time, your grandpa Rauch and grandma Anissa got married. Seemed like everyone was having babies, and your aunts and uncles (Tyler Paige, Mauri, Rese) all came about in those next few years. I think it was a unique thing to be the age I was and have all these new brothers and sisters in my life.
Baseball (again) was where I found my place, and between that and just meeting people in school, I made my group of friends. Middle school was a lot of fun. I would meet up with friends before school and play 2-on-2 basketball in my buddy’s driveway before walking to school. I learned to play saxophone, which led me to teach myself guitar.
High school was another fun time. I started playing golf and was on the golf and baseball team all four years of high school. My best friends were James Rice and Chris Nighland. They both played baseball and golf too, and we would hang out on the weekends. Chris lived with his grandparents who had a lot of woods in their backyard, and we took four-wheelers out to a campsite we made and camped out every warm weekend we could. We had parties out there, and I got into a little bit of trouble a few times, but mostly we just wanted to hang out and have fun.
I had a lot of jobs, too, when I was in high school. Your grandpa Whitt thought it was important for me to work hard, and I think that it helped me grow a lot and taught me responsibility. Some of my jobs (I probably can’t remember all of them) included carpet cleaner, bus boy, Abercrombie stock room worker, Gap salesperson, fence builder with your grandpa Rauch, Abercrombie warehouse worker, Uno Pizza cook, Lowes garden center worker (like, two times before I quit), and maybe some other ones in there. Some jobs I liked, and some I hated, but I always showed up and worked hard, and tried to keep a happy face while I worked. I learned a lot about a lot of different jobs, but more importantly, I learned how to work with a lot of different kinds of people.
As I grew up, I found that the most important things to me were friends, sports, and family. I learned that my parents cared about me, and when they wanted me to work or wanted me to get straight A’s in school (sometimes I did, sometimes I didn’t), it was because they were trying to show me how to be successful in the “real-world.” I know that I will expect a lot of the same things from you as you get older, but I promise that I will only push you because I believe in you, and I will only expect from you what I know you’re capable of.
I had a lot of fun growing up. I had many crazy adventures and did some things that I look back on and think, “what was I thinking?!?” I took some chances, and was smart enough to say no to other things that I knew were not good for me. I hope to share with you as much of those stories as you’ll hopefully want to hear someday, and I hope that you share with me all of the fun and adventures that you’re sure to have as you grow up.
Right now, you’re only 4 months old, and there is so much adventure ahead of you. The most important thing I’d ask of you as you grow up is to have fun, be confident in yourself, and keep your mom and I as involved in your life as possible. We will be your biggest supporters for the rest of our lives!
There is a line in an Avett Brothers song that goes, “When nothing is owed or deserved or expected, and your life doesn’t change by the man that’s elected. If you’re loved by someone, you’re never rejected. Decide what to be and go be it.”
Hopefully you will appreciate the Avett Brothers when you’re older because, if not, your mom, dad, Aunt G, and team Mayberry will all be very sad at you. But even if you don’t like the band, there is a lot of truth in that line, particularly the first and the last parts. To illustrate my thought, I want to focus on the last line, “Decide what to be and go be it.”
Decide what to be and go be it
When you start something with the end in mind, you are working toward a goal and you’re free of circumstance. No matter what each day brings, you can navigate the challenges by deciding what action you take will get you toward your goal. Decide what to be doesn’t have to mean what your career will be, but decide what kind of person you want to be, and live each day in a way that makes that a reality.
“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t… you’re right.” — Henry Ford
Perspective is a powerful thing. I think when you’re young, and even a lot of people who are older, you can’t grasp the gravity of what these expressions mean. You might hear it, and say, “yea, I get it.” It’s the same thing as when I would tell you to start with the end in mind. If you take it to heart and adjust your perspective so that you make that expression a rule you operate by, you will find that you achieve those things you set out to achieve — you reach the end instead of stall along the way.
As you grow up, I promise to teach you to take on challenges with the end in mind, whether it be in sports, school, relationships, or anything else you ever need help with. I will show you how to visualize the things you want, and let the goal be your compass that guides each decision you make along the journey.
Decide what to be a go be it, son. And if you have confidence in what you want to be, there won’t be any person, situation, or circumstance that will keep you from that goal.