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News & Features » February 2016 » “Dear Son” by Daniel Presley

“Dear Son” by Daniel Presley

Are you a parent going through the Terrible Twos? Did you live through them and survive? Terrible Twosdays is a place to commiserate over the unending shenanigans of your Darling Children (as the online parenting communities say). Nonfiction stories will be considered, so long as names have been changed to protect the guilty. Inspired by our best-selling gift book for parents, Go the Fuck to Sleep, Terrible Twosdays joins the roster of our other online short fiction series. Unlike Mondays Are Murder and Thursdaze, we’re looking for stories with a light and mischievous feel, all about the day-to-day challenges of parenting. As with our other flash fiction series, stories must not exceed 750 words.

This week, Daniel Presley shares the hard truths of parenting.

Daniel Presley photoDear Son
by Daniel Presley
18 months

Dear Son,

Honestly, I should’ve started this campaign long ago, back when you were a fetus and your behavior was under control. Today the case is nearly hopeless. You are a strong person—a solitary ego trapped within a tiny body. Some might even interpret your presence as dominating. But you are a lazy person. You are too often at home, as was the case during these past eighteen months.

Your mother says I should allow time for your brain to develop. What brain? I don’t see any signs of an active intelligence. 350 million years of evolution, for this? You better pick up the pace.

There is also the matter of your constant paranoia. How much security does a person need? Now I’m forced to live in a gated community. Gates on my stairs. Gates everywhere!

For your information, the Nespresso coffee capsules—which I desperately need, thanks to your rock-star sleeping patterns—do not “come with the house.” Neither do the Huggies wipes and disposable diapers, biodegradable trash bags, triple-ply Charmin, Kleenex tissues and shine-absorbing sheets, Dyson allergen filters, Honeywell humidifiers (in every room), Johnson’s No More Tears shampoo (face it, kid, you’re bald).

What’s wrong with Les Miserables? A Tale of Two Cities? Let me explain something: the nineteenth century is public domain. Dr. Seuss costs more than a Harvard education! And what do you get out of it? A bunch of silly, rhyming nonsense.

It’s not my fault you have bad taste. I try not to take your freakishness and dissension personally, as your mother constantly reminds me, but to see your conduct for what it is: self-hating, shame-based defense mechanisms. Do you think it’s fun coaxing an actual person into integrating with itself?

I’m sorry if this hurts you, but I need to stick up for myself. Every time you crawl through the room in your indomitable way, I find it intimidating, and all my best comebacks and witticisms occur to me after the fact. Therefore, I have taken up the task of writing to you in defense of my self-expression.

Stop telling me to take my troubles elsewhere. I’d prefer not to squander the public trust to the tune of $125 an hour discussing your narcissistic rage. I desperately need that time to focus on my needs to bring about intrapersonal wholeness. Apparently, from what my therapist has told me, I’ve been a doormat my entire life, and your arrival only confirms this.

Speaking of which, your behavior vis-à-vis your mother’s less-than-triumphant return to the workplace is deplorable. I know you feel you’ve been treated unjustly. You resent the practical necessity of an alternate caregiver. Don’t think I haven’t noticed! Stay-at-home dad—how I loathe the term! Just because my salary happened to be slightly below that of a childcare professional’s shouldn’t devalue me as a person. I’ve overheard how you’ve misrepresented the situation to your mother, and I don’t approve.

And now you whine (you actually cry) about how inconvenient a trip to California is (another maternal perk!) to someone like me, who has never been anywhere, except once to the Yucatan, which hardly counts as a bona-fide vacation for a thirty-two-year-old man after he’s soiled himself in a bus thanks to questionable Mexican eats. I was wearing blonde chinos, Son!

Do you realize I have never, ever had a tan? My lack of pigment, though, is a trivial, piddling complaint. The real reason I won’t be joining the two of you on the sunny Pacific coast is because we can’t bear the expense. If you’d like to know why the coffers are empty, take a look in the mirror.

I challenge you to take responsibility for your actions. You’re going to have your moment of heightened clarity, kid, and it’s going to be on my watch. I’m not giving up on you. As my therapist says, you need to exhibit faith in your self-esteem. You must unlearn poor habits and false assumptions.

Thanks for pointing out with that impregnable glare of yours how “plenty of people would be thrilled to live with someone emotionally and mentally unavailable.” I am not one of those people. Perhaps you should have screened the cosmic corkboard more thoroughly before choosing a father.

Being a toddler is not just about living under the same roof—it’s about caring and sharing and contributing.

Your loving Dad


DANIEL PRESLEY is an American author and screenwriter living in Paris. His film Populaire (2013) was released in over thirty-five countries. It won Best Narrative Feature at the San Francisco International Film Festival and Best First Feature at the COLCOA Festival. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Hunger MountainThrice, and Drunken Boat. He is currently finishing a novel and a collection of short stories. You can find him at Twitter @daniel_presley or his website: www.danielpresley.com.


Do you have a story you’d like us to consider for online publication in the Terrible Twosdays flash fiction series? Here are the submission terms and guidelines:

—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your story should focus on the challenges of parenting. Ideally, stories should be about children aged 0 to 5, but any age (up to early teens) is acceptable. Stories may be fiction or nonfiction.
—Include the child’s age at the time of the story next to your byline.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission to info@akashicbooks.com. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.

Posted: Feb 23, 2016

Category: Original Fiction, Terrible Twosdays | Tags: , , , , , , , ,