The Fatherhood Letters
Author’s Note: This is a companion short story to Another Hero’s Journey: Fatherhood, published in issue 909. But you don’t need to read that to understand or appreciate this story.
I’m going to cut to the chase. Andrea and I are going to be parents! Which means that you, little brother, are going to be an uncle. I know it may not be as impressive as all the other things you’ve done especially as a big shot hero and a knight of Meridell, but just think of it as your next big adventure.
That’s what this feels like, really. An adventure. Andrea was so excited she jumped for joy and I couldn’t help but pick her up and twirl her all over the living room. If Mother didn’t know why we were dancing, she probably would’ve thought that we lost our minds. Of course, she was just as happy for us – so happy she put together a big celebratory dinner with apple pie, a hearty meat stew, a summer salad and potatoes cooked three ways.
I still can’t believe I’m going to be a father soon. I’m thinking of so many things at once. The baby’s room, possible names, toys, clothes, whether he’ll look more like me (or rather, us) or be a Kyrii like his mother, childproofing the rest of the house since it hasn’t seen a kid in years… my mind is running a thousand miles an hour in every direction and it doesn’t stop even when I’m supposed to be sleeping. I’ve been spacing out at work too; I gave a Draik guard from Meridell Castle a longbow instead of the sword I forged for him and it was pretty embarrassing. Andrea couldn’t stop giggling when she saw the whole thing.
Sorry if this letter seems messier than usual. My hand is shaking as I write. Sweet Fyora, it’s finally happening.
Anyway, enough about me, let’s talk about you. Hope you’ve been doing well, although I imagine you’re always having the time of your life since being a knight was your childhood dream, and now you’re living it.
You better write soon. I’m also going to send over a list of birthday gift suggestions for your soon-to-be nephew. Just to save you the time thinking about them.
* * *
Congratulations! I know you wanted this a long time, so I’m really happy for you!
Your excitement is contagious; the other knights saw me grinning from ear to ear when I got your letter from our Eyrie messenger. She showed up while we were discussing our plans for the upcoming war games with Darigan Citadel. I was supposed to wait till the meeting was over, but Jeran got to the boring part of the strategy so I opened your letter and started reading in the middle of it. Don’t give me that look, all these meetings end the same way. It’s not like I missed much.
Jeran asked me why I was smiling, so I gave him the news. Suddenly everyone was more interested in hearing about you and Andrea than the war game plans. (Sorry, not sorry, Jeran.) They congratulated me, told me to say congratulations to you on their behalf, and even began making suggestions for gifts. Maybe I won’t need your list anymore. But that’s not all.
You know how quickly news travels in Meridell Castle. It didn’t take long for everyone to find out about you having a son. It’s all everyone talks about with me, and I could’ve sworn I heard Kayla discussing it with some of her customers. Not that I mind, it’s great news all around. Still, at this rate, your kid is going to become a celebrity before he can even walk or talk.
Aside from preparing for the war games, this side of Meridell has been quiet so Jeran has squeezed in as many training and sparring sessions these past few days. He’s determined not to lose to Darigan especially since Darigan will have the home court advantage. That’s right, the games will be held on the Citadel. Don’t worry, I’ll bring back souvenirs – and hopefully, another victory in Meridell’s war games. It will be a bigger challenge not only because of the location but also because Jeran decided to place me in charge of the frontal assault team.
I know you’re thrilled about being a father but please, get some sleep before you pass out at work or something.
P.S. Mipsy, Talinia and Velm are also going to want to hear this. I hope you don’t mind me writing to them about it. Knowing you, you’ll try to rope them in as aunts and uncle.
* * *
We’ve started work on the baby’s room, sprucing up one of the rooms in the expanded area of our house. Our old cradle is getting repainted, and we’re getting some furniture like a rocking chair and a chest of drawers. Andrea had the idea of getting a model Whinny, and I think it’s a very good idea – it takes me back to when we had our own model Whinnies. Remember when we pretended to race each other even though the Whinnies just rocked back and forth?
I’m finally able to sleep. Excitement’s dying down now that we’re focusing on the room and stocking it with toys and stuff, and Andrea is already trying to think of names for our son. We considered naming him after you but that might cause a lot of confusion. There’s also naming him after Father, but I feel like I’d rather give him a different name. He could grow up to be a great knight like Father – or you – but then again, he might not, and instead he’ll turn out to be a handsome weapon maker like yours truly.
Of course, I know that might not happen either. I’m just kidding. Mostly.
I see nothing wrong with my son becoming a celebrity. Thanks for spreading the word about him; hopefully this means more presents for him and more business for me. I’m still kidding, do you really think I’d use my kid to draw more customers? That’s already your job.
Is there a chance we can get tickets or something to the Meridell versus Darigan war games? I’d love to see you leading the charge. I just hope you didn’t pick a fight with Jeran over strategy again.
* * *
First of all, I don’t pick fights with Jeran over strategy. Second, it’s not my fault his plans need some work and no one else points it out. It’s also not my fault when he is the one who challenges me to a duel to settle things.
But I’ll see about getting you up to the Citadel to watch the games.
I can’t wait to see the baby’s room, but I haven’t been able to leave the castle thanks to all of the war game preparations. Maybe after the games we can leave the Citadel together and surprise everyone at Trestin. Don’t tell Andrea.
I’m not very good with names, but have you considered naming him after a hero from one of the stories we always begged Mother and Father to read to us? Or if you’re feeling particularly vain, call him Reuben Junior, or RJ for short.
Also, I’m not surprised you would use your son’s newfound fame to make business and get him more presents. Father of the Year, that’s you right there.
I’ll stop here for now because Jeran wants us to rehearse the frontal assault plans and he’s glaring at me.
Wishing you the best,
* * *
Remember when I said the excitement was dying down? Well, I didn’t think it was possible, but it just dried up, and instead, I got nervous. Scared, even.
I realized that I have no idea how to be a good father. You might be thinking, “Just do what Father did!” But that’s only going to work for the first few years. Father wasn’t around when we got older. Besides, my son is going to be a lot different from you, or me. I’m so afraid of messing up, teaching the wrong thing, or failing to teach him something important. I might miss something, and my mistake will stay with him for his entire life. What if I turn out to be the worst dad in Neopia? I wish this came with an instruction manual!
It bugged me so much that I had to talk to someone who knew Father best. I sat down and had a talk with Mother about me becoming a father. And I was surprised to learn that our father, the great Sir Reynold, Blumaroo knight extraordinaire, was as scared as I was. She let me read their shared journal, and I never thought Father could be that scared of something that wasn’t a hulking monster or an impending war. It made me feel better, knowing that even he went through this before we turned his life upside-down.
I talked to Andrea, too. She told me she was scared of becoming a new mom. That made me feel better, too. I can talk to her about how I feel, and about what’s giving me the heebie-jeebies about being a new parent. I know I can already talk to Andrea about anything, but I hesitated because she was so excited, and I didn’t want to ruin it for her. Turns out, she was excited and afraid at the same time.
You’re lucky, you don’t need to know much to be a good uncle. You just send gifts, show up for the kid’s birthdays, occasionally get on babysitting duty if for some reason Andrea and I can’t get Mother to babysit. I don’t know what you’ll think of me, your big brother getting so worked up about something like this when you’ve carried the fate of the world on your shoulders a few times.
Maybe I shouldn’t worry about what you think of me. It can’t be as bad as what I thought of myself, right?
Now that I think about it, you do have a duty as an uncle. Your job is to listen to me ramble about being a dad, like what you’re doing right now – in a way, since you’re not really listening to me, but reading these words from my letter.
Thanks, I appreciate it. (“But Reuben, I never asked to read your rambles!” Tough luck, I said it was your duty. You’re a knight now, you should know all about duty.)
No, really, thanks.
* * *
You already know what I think of you. You’re my favourite (and only) annoying, insufferable, big brother. I don’t think that will change whether you become a father, or whether you keep sending me long letters. Or when I become an uncle.
I don’t know anything about being a father, but you worrying like this can only be a good sign. It means you want what’s best for your son and you only want to do what’s right. I know you and Andrea can handle this, and for me, this is a lot bigger than saving the world. It’s something you’ll be doing for the rest of your life. At least when you’ve defeated a big Draik bent on Faerieland domination, once said Draik is out of the way, you don’t have to worry about him anymore. But you’ll still worry about your son even when he’s grown up and has his own family, I bet.
I’m not sure what else to say except that I have your back, and if even Father had trouble being a dad, you shouldn’t feel bad about not being the perfect dad, either.
If you ever need someone to talk to about this, you know who to call. I’m agreeing to this not just as an uncle, but also as your brother. And you can talk to Mother, too, of course. Ramble all you want, we’ll listen to all of it. I’m serious.
As for the babysitting duty? I’ll get back to you on that.
And, you finally got to read Mother and Father’s journal? Did they have embarrassing stories about you as a baby? I want to know.
* * *
I really appreciate your letter even if you called me annoying and insufferable. Pot, kettle, black. I’m also going to look through our parents’ journal and look for the most incriminating stories about you, just you wait.
Thanks so much for reading through my last letter and all the previous letters, it means a lot. Sorry for not getting back to you sooner, all of us were up to our ears in preparations and other stuff. Not to mention, you probably heard of NeoFlu suddenly going around Trestin. Andrea and her brother, Ben, got sick, and even though Ben, being the sturdy white Kyrii that he is, is now recovering, Andrea’s still feeling under the weather. Mother has been cooking up a lot of soup for her and we know where to buy the right healing potions to help her feel better, but this is the icing on your big brother’s worry cake.
But at least I know you have my back and I have everyone around me to join me on this wild ride as I prepare to become a dad.
I’ve had to put preparations on hold to take care of Andrea, but luckily most of it is out of the way. The room’s all furnished and ready, waiting for our son. I’m still worried and nervous, but the excitement is back. I can’t wait to carry my son, to hold him, to read stories to him, to play with him, and to teach him everything there is to know about this crazy world.
I hope you’re doing well. I’ll keep this letter short, as you have better things to do especially with the war games, and Mother needs help in the kitchen.
* * *
I hope Andrea is feeling better now. And I’m glad you’re feeling better about becoming a dad. I can’t really tell you not to worry, but again, I’m here if you want to unload some of that worry even if we do have to practice for the war games. (Jeran will understand. Or at least I hope he will. Everyone here is still asking me about you and when I’ll be heading out to see my new nephew.)
I just heard back from Mipsy and Velm. They’re okay with you naming them your son’s aunt and uncle. Talinia hasn’t replied yet but maybe she got really busy up in Terror Mountain, or the weather stalled their mail.
Let me know when I can take some time off and see your son. Wait, do you have a name for him yet? It feels weird just referring to him as your son or my nephew or the baby. No, get back to me on that when Andrea’s okay.
Oh, and since you came first, I’m sure there are more embarrassing stories about you than me.
Your annoying and insufferable little brother,
* * *
Sorry if my handwriting is even worse now because my hand is trembling again. I’m not crying. I spilt a few drops of water on my paper and smudged up the ink.
My son is finally here, and we named him Darel. After Andrea recovered from the NeoFlu, we went over our list of names again, and she suddenly said “Darel” out of nowhere. We wrote that down, and when we saw our little red Kyrii for the first time (he took after his mom), we thought it was perfect for him.
I can’t describe to you the relief, the joy, the exhilaration and the nervousness that comes with holding my son in my arms. He’s so beautiful but also so small and delicate, like porcelain – nothing at all like the sturdy, dangerous weapons I make and sell for a living, and infinitely more precious. I feel like crying and laughing and running up to the highest mountain to shout, “I’m a father now!” all at the same time. Suddenly, all my worries seem so far away – for now. They’ll probably hit me like a ton of bricks the next time Darel cries.
You have to come visit us soon. Mother is ready to cook a big lunch for us when you show up. But I hope you don’t mind us getting a head start on the celebrations. A lot of our friends and neighbours in and near Trestin are showing up and when I’m not putting Darel to sleep, I’m back on kitchen duty feeding all these folks wishing us well. At least most of them brought presents. I’m expecting yours too, by the way.
But now that I think about it, you – no, we – kind of have a present for Darel already, though he won’t appreciate it for several years. When he’s older, I’m going to read to him our letters. I want him to know that his dad isn’t perfect, and will probably never be perfect, but I’m going to keep on trying to be the best dad that I can be. And I also want him to know that you were also a huge help in the days leading up to today. If he ever wants to be a father someday, he can find solace in the fact that I will be here to answer all the questions he’ll ever have.
Anyway, why are you still reading this letter? Go on, pack your things, and catch the nearest boat to Trestin already! Darel’s waiting to meet his favourite (and only) uncle. Then we can really celebrate! I just hope we don’t run out of food before you arrive.
Save the congratulations for when you get here. I want to hear it straight from you instead of in a letter.
Your even more annoying and insufferable big brother,