My Dearest Manu,
They say every father wants his firstborn to be a son, first, to leave a legacy and pass on the family name, second, as a reflection of himself, sort of like getting a do-over in life, while being able to impart his wisdom upon his offspring to live the unfilled dreams of his youth. And, finally, at least in my case, a father wants a son first to watch over and keep boys away from any sister he may have in the future!I remember when Mommy and I went to South Miami Hospital for our first sonogram exam to find out what we were having (not that we thought you were going to be a little creature, but whether you would be a boy or a girl!). I didn’t want to know your sex and preferred waiting for a surprised like parents used to do in the times before sonograms were popular (You know me, old fashion!). However, you know Mom; always practical and thinking of the color scheme for the room, your clothes, toys, etc. Therefore, when the nurse asked if we wanted to know the sex, Mommy immediately said yes and I reluctantly agreed, if only, because it would be tough knowing that she knew what you were and I didn’t!
Well, I’ll be honest, yes, like most fathers, I wanted a boy and I held my breath anxiously, as I held Mommy’s hand waiting for the big announcement while the nurse glided the camera over the gel on Mommy’s stomach (I guess, sort of like, you get after sending a text message to a friend and anxiously wait for a reply!). Obviously, my dreams were quickly dashed when the nurse said, “It’s a girl.”Even so, until the day you were born, although I had prepared myself mentally for being the father of a baby girl, I still held on the hope that the pipi was tucked away somewhere undetected by the camera and you would be a boy, regardless of what the nurse said!
It’s like the old Bill Cosby joke of the first time he brought his newborn daughter home and his father, looking a bit downcast at him, said, “You know, you still have a chance to rectify this.” “What are you talking about, Dad?” Cosby asked. “Yes,” the older man said, “Just blow into her mouth!” I guess he thought the pipi would pop out like a balloon!No, despite all the baseball talk I did to you while you were in Mommy’s belly, and the many times I recited the Mets’ starting lineup to you (I actually did, you know) , you didn’t like baseball much. You didn’t like baseball. You didn’t like football. You didn’t like basketball. You didn’t like soldiers, cowboys or playing war, like I did when I was a kid.
Instead, you liked dolls, and playing with dolls, and dressing up like a princess and watching Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and, especially, Beauty and the Beast, which you wore out from playing so much, over and over and over again.But, you were my girl and lucky for you, you were, or else you might have been named Hundley! Yes, Hundley Espinosa, yikes!
Todd Hundley was my favorite player at the time but the Mets traded for Mike Piazza and Hundley got shipped to the Dodgers before you were even born. By 2003, his career was over because of injuries and drinking problems! God saved us both from a lot of embarrassing explanations on that one!I quickly adapted to having a girl and after Emilia was born, I actually enjoyed being the father of girls, in fact, by the time Nico came around, I was convinced we were going to be having another girl and I was perfectly happy and content with the prospects.
By then, not only was I used to being a father of two little girls but, I didn’t know how to father a little boy; hence the difficulty in potty training him! A girl is easy. You sit her on the toilet and she’ll do number one or number two eventually and gets it pretty quickly. A boy, on the other hand, you have to figure out which one he has to do, and, if it’s number one, stand him in front of the toilet and try to coax him into doing pipi into the bowl. Not an easy task! Then, when he finally figures out what he’s supposed to do, he usually sprays all over the place! (For more on this, check out your brother!)In any case, you are my girl. You will always be my girl; my big girl, who I loved from the moment I laid eyes on your coned-headed, purple skin “little-creature-looking” self! I fell in love and, despite, not often showing it, because I sometimes feel like you don’t want me to be all cuddly with you, and therefore, I don’t show you the affection I feel, I couldn’t be prouder and more glad that God put you in my life.
Manu, you’re God’s special gift to Mommy and me. You are so beautiful, loving, smart and talented. I’m really not looking forward to you getting into high school and guys falling all over themselves for your attention and, I know they will.At the beginning of Father of the Bride, Steve Martin’s character, George Banks, says, “You have a little girl. An adorable little girl who looks up to you and adores you in a way you could never imagine. I remember how her little hand used to fit inside mine. How she used to sit in my lap and lean her head against my chest. She said that I was her hero. Then the day comes when she wants to get her ears pierced and she wants you to drop her off a block before the movie theater. Next thing you know she's wearing eye shadow and high heels. From that moment on, you're in a constant state of panic.”
Yet, I know you have to grow up. You are already growing up and becoming a mature young lady. Despite, all my defects (and you know I have many!) and, at times, my poor example and impatience, you have a great head on your shoulders. You have a great sense of right and wrong. You realize the importance of having God in your life. You recognize the importance of family, although, I know you will value your brother and sister more as you get older. And, I hope through my sometimes annoying lectures, even when they don’t make much sense, and attending a Catholic school, you realize the importance of staying close to the Sacraments, which we receive from Jesus through the Holy Catholic Church.In a book that Boston College Philosophy Professor and speaker, Peter Kreeft, wrote to his children, entitled, Before I Go, on lessons he wanted to pass on to them before leaving this world, he wrote, “Without love, our happiness is not true happiness. Without God, our love is not true love. Without Jesus, our God is not the true God. Without the Church, our Jesus is not the true Jesus.”
In the Gospel of Matthew, we read, “And when Jesus was baptized, he went up immediately from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on him; and lo, a voice from heaven, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matt 3:16-17)As you know, the same Spirit of God, which we receive in Baptism, fills us in Confirmation. We are “completed in the baptismal grace” and “more perfectly bound to the Church” as the Catechism states.
I am very proud of you and pray this profound moment in your life draws you closer to Christ and to His Church. And, when the day comes, when you are challenged in what you believe, and you will, you are emboldened by that Spirit to stand by His side and defend your faith, regardless of the consequence.No, you were not the son I wanted at first but you are more than I could ever have imagined. I thank God every day for putting you in our care. I realize now that the legacy I leave is YOU; your maturity, your wisdom, your moral makeup, your love and the love that you will share with your own family someday. My unfilled dreams are being met in YOU, as you grow up to be, not what I want you to be, but what God wants you to be and, maybe, I would like to think, that through my diatribes during American Idol and my many unprompted break-into tedious orations on the faith, I am imparting a love and passion for the Catholic Church that you will hold close to your heart forever. And, maybe, just maybe, I can still turn you into a ballplayer and a lover of baseball one day.
Moreover, considering your maturity, wisdom and moral sense, I’m sure you will know how to handle the many boys that will come knocking on your own and, hopefully, help keep them away from Emilia, as well!May God always bless you.
I love you more than words can ever express,Dad.