(The following is a light-hearted letter I wrote to my unborn son, Yves, for a university assignment. He is now 17-months-old, with a 10-week-old brother, Remy, who has Down syndrome).
Dear Little Dude,
You have been growing inside me for 18 weeks now, and I have begun to feel you move. It is still months until you arrive, but already I look like I've swallowed a dugong. Your dad has started to put his head on my belly and sing to you -- I pray you can't hear him yet, it's truly terrible. But I do hope you will have his eyes, his hair, and a little of his height. Maybe you will have my complexion... God help us if you get my teeth, it will cost us the earth to fix them. Really I have no idea of what you might look like, I only hope you get here safely.
Despite your Dad's shocking voice, you should have a good grounding musically. While he murders lullabies from Radiohead, I'm going through a Libertines phase, and before you are born this summer we have tickets to see Kings of Leon, Arctic Monkeys, and Fleet Foxes. So if you come out digging Miley Cyrus that should settle the nature/nurture debate once and for all.
I should apologize though, for the obscene amount of fried and generally evil food I have subjected you to thus far. I can't control myself, so if you burst into the world with a predilection for KFC and sour candy, you can blame me. Also, I have been less than diligent with exercise, so when you become a lazy teenager who would rather surf the net than walk the dog, I will be temporarily supportive. But please also know that carrying you around in utero, whilst fun at times, is a genuine labor of love that ought to be repaid with lifelong respect and frequent gifts of chocolate and wine. (On that note, it has been 104 days since I had a glass, but hey, who's counting.)
In all seriousness, I think the most important things we can teach you are patience, poise and perspective. (Your dad is rolling his eyes at me about now.) One of the most important truths for me is that there are many ways of looking at everything and everyone, and that being open to the possibilities of each viewpoint is the path to balance and fullness of experience. I want you to be able to walk in another person's shoes so that you can be compassionate and fair. I know we will have to let you fall, but I promise we will pick you up as many times as it takes to discover what makes you happy. I want to help you to surround yourself with kind and respectful people, and for you to be a loving and thoughtful friend to others. While it is true that nobody escapes this life without knowing criticism or confrontation, I hope we can teach you to counter this with grace and strength of spirit.
All in all, I think your dad and I will make a good team. He will be strict (don't plan on dating or driving until you turn 30), but he is capable of a non-judgmental, all-encompassing love that will ensure you feel wanted and adored your whole life. I know he will be a safe place for you, as he is for me.
Finally, I guess we don't want to enforce too many hard and fast rules just yet, but there are a few that come to mind;
1. Never be cruel to animals.
2. If you must lie, make it impenetrable.
3. Brush your teeth daily.
4. Religion and sexual orientation are your own business, but good manners are mandatory.
5. Don't use the "c" word. Ever.
Grow strong little dude, we look forward to meeting you.