Yes, I’ll Wrestle with You

I don’t have many memories from my life as a young child: a few images or feelings that, given the malleability of memory, may or may not represent reality. With this letter (and perhaps others in the future), I hope to provide my son with a window into his life and our relationship during his early childhood years.

A Letter to My Three-Year-Old

Dear T,

When you first arrived, I didn’t know how to take care of you. I never babysat young children, especially not infants. But I learned how to change your diapers, warm your bottles, wash your body, and put your clothes on.

I watched you grow, and now you are three.

You and I can talk to each other now—tell each other our thoughts. You tell me you love me sometimes. When it’s spontaneous it makes my week. I love you too, in ways you won’t understand until you have children of your own, the same way I didn’t understand until I had you.

Mainly, you ask me to play. Sometimes mom and I are too busy in the evenings to play with you as much as you (and we) would like. We always make sure you eat (or at least get presented with) a good dinner, and while we prepare the food, you entertain yourself with “projects” and—on special rare occasions—a TV show. Most days I am impressed by your patience.

Over the past few months, your favorite pastime has become an after-dinner wrestling match. You like to pretend we are lions: I am Scar and you are Simba—from The Lion King—and we fight for control of one of our couches, which doubles as Pride Rock. Sometimes we are other animals: rhinos, wildebeests, hippos. But it doesn’t matter much to you, as long as we are rolling around on the living room carpet.

When it’s time to stop, you are upset. You stomp your feet and want to wrestle a little longer. Your mom and I try to be firm, especially if bedtime is near. Often we settle on one more minute of wrestling, and then I challenge you to a race up the steps to prepare for bedtime.

Your repeated requests to wrestle are cute. But the tenacity of your requests make me wonder why it is so important to you, and what goes through your mind when I sometimes have to deny your request. How does this look from your perspective? I don’t know why I have not contemplated this before, and I am frankly ashamed of myself for that. Obviously I have reflected on how you see and interact with the world ever since you first opened your eyes, but less so on how I might appear through your eyes.

What are you thinking and feeling when I tell you that I can’t play right now? Can you understand that I would love to spend more time with you? If you become upset when playtime is over, do you understand my reasons? Do you know that I worry about you: what you eat, how much you sleep, who your friends are? Can you comprehend the responsibility I feel for your life?

Only you know the answers to these questions. But through your words and actions, I understand that spending time with me is important to you. It’s too easy for me to become lost in the complicated adult world, when your world is a much better, simpler place. You live in the moment. I plan on spending more time there with you.

The other evening I was busy: chopping vegetables, turning on some music, talking to your mom, thinking about work, contemplating a new house, and wondering what to name your future sibling. I was reading a recipe on my phone as you tried to get my attention.




I finally looked up and, with a squint and a mischievous grin, you asked, “Do you wanna wrestle?”

“Yes, I’ll wrestle with you.”



8 Replies to “Yes, I’ll Wrestle with You”

  1. Love this letter! My almost 8 year old still asks me to wrestle with him, but with far less earnestness than he once did. He’s also added numerous other games to his arsenal of things he wants to do together. I know one day this will stop, but I’m trying to enjoy it as best as I can now.

    1. Anytime I have the slightest inkling to say no, I always remember that before I know it, he will be asking for the car keys and running out the door. “Cat’s in the Cradle” hits too close to home sometimes. I get choked up a bit if I think about it too much, so I try to enjoy every second.

      Thanks so much for reading!
      Dr. C

  2. Love this letter!!! My son loves to wrestle and play as well. He loves contact and I joke around that he’s going to grow up wrestling in the WWE 🙂 I am definitely trying to enjoy these times while he still wants to spend time with me 🙂 Great letter!!!

    1. Usually I am more beat up afterward than he is! Wrestling is definitely one way my son likes to show affection, and I’ve come to really enjoy it for what it is: his desire to spend time with me.

      Thanks so much for stopping by! I am a big fan of your site!
      Dr. C

  3. This is such a good practice. My daughter is just about to turn 5, and I’ve written her letters typically around her birthday. I wrote one the day she was born, describing much like you did: what life is like, what she’s like, the things I’m thinking about. As each year goes by, I try to recap the big events in her life and ours. I don’t know when I’ll give these to her. I figure they’re for many years down the road, but I’m not sure if that’s 15 years or 25 years or what. I try to envision what her future self will think as she reads the words. Usually by three paragraphs in I’m just a teary mess. Now I just have to make sure I don’t lose them before she gets to read them!

    1. This is the first letter I’ve written, but I plan to make it a more regular thing. The process of writing down my feelings actually helped me work through some behavioral issues we have been experiencing with him, to my surprise. I didn’t know my wife was reading it, only to look up and see her a blubbery mess. After my surprise subsided, we agreed it’s will (hopefully) be something our son appreciates when he’s older.

      Take care and thanks for visiting!
      Dr. C

  4. So poignant. Definitely reminds me a little of Cats in the Cradle, except, you are obviously an affectionate father. In the song, the son of a busy, distant father turns into a busy, distant father himself.

    Maybe your boy can help mommy and daddy in the kitchen in another year. I have fond memories from when I was 4 or 5 and my mother filling up the sink with suds for me. I had a little step so I could reach the sink and I remember loving the feel of the warm water and the fact that I was helping.

    1. Thanks so much! My wife and I try to include him in our activities as much as possible, and within reason 🙂 I can tell it means the world to him when we ask for his “help” with gardening or a small project around the house. It’s a cliche, but those small day-to-day interactions are what’s life is all about, and they are so easy to lose in the hustle and bustle.

      Take care Mrs. Groovy,
      Dr. C

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