I, along with much of the country, am currently infatuated with an ESPN documentary series titled “30 for 30.” In celebration of ESPN’s 30+ years on the air, the series pairs accomplished filmmakers with unforgettable sports stories to create beautiful revisitations of these important and formative events. In layman’s terms, they’re sweet movies.
On March 6th of this year, I will enter my fourth decade on the planet. Billions have crossed this line before me, and billions will cross after. I’m not special, and I’m not posturing about age as some type of mid-life crisis. Truthfully, I never thought about reaching this plateau, and now that I’m about to do so with a wife by my side and three kids biting at my ankles, the upcoming decade is all I can think about. There is much I’d like to experience, and to see you achieve in the coming years. Let this letter serve as my aspirational 30 for 30, or the stories I’d like to revisit ten years from now.
I don’t drink it. Never have. I’d like to though- whether it be the warm memories of my grandfather’s 4:30am black coffee and crossword puzzles, or my wife’s affinity for the Huckleberry flavored beans that come from beautiful southern Montana, I’ve always admired coffee drinkers. I plan to force myself to become one of them.
29. Dr Pepper
The addiction of my previous decade. I have no regrets. I mean, my teeth are shot and I’m a little fat. It was worth it. Now I’m a full-fledged adult now, and I’m trying to move on without the sugary carbonated mistress. We’ll see how it goes.
28. The Atlantic
I like to travel… as long as it’s somewhere I’ve been before (please don’t dig too far into that logic). Sometime soon, but not too soon, I need to let your mom drag us to the East Coast.
I’m waiting for the day you all gang up and beg for a puppy. They enrich life so much, but once Cash and Willa are no longer with us, and your dumb bearded dragons move on to that temperature regulated aquarium in the sky, I’m not sure I’ll be able to do the whole pet thing again. We’ll see if you can convince me that it’ll help you learn responsibility, and then promptly dump that responsibility on your mom and I when we bend to your request.
26. The First Car
I have a 1994 Mercedes station wagon. I want it to be yours. 10 years from now it’ll be time for that to happen. If it isn’t this car, you can guarantee it’ll be something equally as strange. I don’t want your car earning you any dates.
It’s become increasingly evident that the junior high students I teach have been subjected to prolonged negative political dialogue at the dinner table. Over the next 10 years, I’d like to shape your perspectives without poisoning the well. This could very well be my personal Mission Impossible.
24. Campus Crusade
One thing I always admired was that an aunt and uncle of mine always took their two kids to visit the major college campus of whatever city they happened to be traveling through. That’s my plan for us, as early and as often as possible.
23. The Evolution of Gaming
Video games have come so far from the joystick based Atari I first played Pong on. There’s no way I’m letting the three of you dive right into the world of PS4. Instead, be prepared to experience Mario Brothers, Sonic, Donkey Kong and all the rest of the classics over the next decade.
22. The Perfect Burrito
Even when we find it, we won’t stop looking.
21. Stitches and Fractures
I opened my skull once at 5, and another time at 7. Your mother shattered an ankle. The stories of your bumps and bruises will be epic, no doubt.
I look forward to emphasizing mathematics with you in a way that I should have done myself. I took basic algebra three times. There are three of you. Please collectively equal my attempts.
19. Maniac Magee and The Boxcar Children
Whether by choice, or like vegetables forced down a reluctant throat at the dinner table, award-winning fiction will be a mainstay in this house. Ten years from now, I look forward to looking back on it’s impact.
18. The ‘do
Adult men’s hair should be boring and predictable. You should look like you do on your work badge and drivers license. Time for me to pick a style and stick to it.
17. The Sound of Music
Who knows how many instruments your mom plays? I don’t think you’ll continue to tiptoe around strings and keys without eventually falling into it yourself. I’m not a musician, but I can’t wait to see what noises fill these walls over the next 10 years.
Back to the Future, Star Wars (4-6), Lord of the Rings, Indiana Jones, The Hangover (just kidding). Trilogies will play a much larger role in the life of a young man than they should.
Over a 29 day period in mid-summer, all three of you will celebrate your birthdays. How we celebrate them as a family has yet to be determined. One big party? Three separate weekends in a row where we ask a bunch of the same people to hang out with us in a kid-heavy cake extravaganza?
14. The “Talk”
When I was eight, my stepmother found me watching the Magic Johnson HIV Announcement, and bluntly stated “better wear a condom.” Pretty sure I was reprimanded for asking what condoms were at school the next day. The bar has been set pretty low. Not sure what I’m gonna say, but I think I’ve got this.
13. The “Other Talk”
I’ve never used drugs. I am terrible at drinking. Kids like to have fun. Fun usually involves drinking and drugs. I plan to just be open and awkward about this for your entire lives.
Please don’t let me spoil you.
11. A Trophy
I firmly believe that one of these pro teams here in Phoenix will win a championship in the coming decade. When it happens, we’re all going to have a really good time celebrating.
10. The 89
We have this tradition I’ve forced on all of us. It involves driving north on the I-89, weaving in and out of Utah, Idaho and Wyoming. I’m going to keep doing it.
I am not allowed in the kitchen. I am not allowed to do laundry. I kinda screw things up. I will learn, and you’ll learn with me. I can’t raise boys as inept around the house as I’ve managed to be.
Our family will get bigger. Whether naturally, or because someone needed a home- who knows what’s in the cards? Stay open to it.
7. Pick a Sport, any Sport
We’re probably not sending anyone to the big leagues, but team sports are a vital to making sure you have other authority figures in your life besides us. Football, baseball, soccer- you pick it, and stick to it.
6. Nerd Stuff
I was on my own when it came to the baseball cards, action figures, video games and whatever else. You won’t be. Feel free to geek out over something and I’ll do my best to meet you in the middle.
5. Good Grief
Death is a, if the not THE, fact of life. I have lost some of the most important people in my life over the last few years, and for some reason, I can’t shake the feeling that I’m going through this process all wrong. I don’t mean to sound callous, or dismissive, but the smallest reminders of the departed take the oxygen right out of me. I’ve watched adults grieve, and apart from those who have lost a child, they all seem to recover, pick up the pieces, and move on. I can’t be incapacitated by grief when I have kids. When death comes, and unfortunately it will, I want to be able to be a pillar you can all lean on instead of a windsock.
4. Your Grandparents
Grandparents do something for a kid that parents can’t. You get someone they can respect, and have fun with simultaneously. Your time with them over the next 10 years will be one of the most important stories of both of our decades. Cherish it.
3. These Letters
I’m excited for the day you can all read these, and hopeful that you’ll be able to comprehend some of them.
The oldest of the three of you will be 15. This isn’t about you, or your first crush, who I assume will be Winnie Cooper from syndicated reruns of The Wonder Years. This is about your mom and I, and our triumphs and struggles to love each other enough to set a proper example.
The story I’ll be most interested in revisiting at age 40 is the tale of how we chose to give thanks. In our home, in the community, at our church, to our friends, our foes and our Maker. Who did we show gratitude to, and what for?
Ralph's Letters 30 for 30 Coffee Donkey Kong Dr Pepper ESPN I-89 Magic Johnson Maniac Magee Mario Brothers Mercedes Parenting blog Sonic the Hedgehog The Boxcar Children The Wonder Years video games wish list
Wyoming born. Arizona raised. Believer. Husband. Dad. Sports Reporter. Pineapple hater. Trying to live a life of gratitude.