I Wish My Son Came with an Instruction Manual

It occurrs to me, after the birth of my son two weeks ago, that he did not come with an instruction manual.

An instruction manual has always been an integral part in the learning process for anything I interact with. Written instructions on the set up, the maintenance, the care, the features… are usually covered in some kind of booklet. My son came with no such booklet. Therefore, I struggle to understand his operation. It can be frustrating at times, but occasionally when I know how to get the parameters just right, it can also be incredibly joyful.

All the local experts who had acquired a baby previously claimed to know exactly how my son operates, but following their instructions was a bit like using graffiti to learn long division.

But it occurs to me that perhaps my son doesn’t have an instruction manual because manuals are written to describe products that are static. A TV might display infinite images over the course of its life, but its operation remains the same throughout. Furthermore, a TV was created more or less to solve a specific problem.

My son, on the other hand, wasn’t created to solve a specific problem. In fact, the act of solving specific problems is inherent to the idea of good design, and we definitely did not design him.

It’s more like he is designing himself, with every hiccup, glance, and arm stretch. Whatever elements he sees when he looks out of our kitchen window gets imprinted right onto his heart like a tattoo, and every meaningless word I sing to him translates into warmth.

There’s no manual for a product that is still being crafted. There’s no specific set of problems he’s solving yet, outside of simply surviving.

The specific problem is what college students search for. It’s the thing that takes most people forever to figure out. It takes time and errors and sweat and vomit and blood.

So it’s silly for me to even expect a manual for something so simple. But me, on the other hand… I’ve taken that time. I’ve made those errors. I’ve sweat until my pores were clogged, and I’ve vomited until I was empty.

I suppose if he could, my son would complain that it is ludicrous that I, his father, don’t come with an instruction manual. After all, I exist to solve a specific set of problems.

And after all, little boys often have trouble understanding how their fathers operate.

And so this repository of text files that I call a blog, the collection of melodies and lyrics that I call my songs, and everything else that I put my name on will become the instruction manual. So that when I’m tired and soaked in rain and there are moments that he doesn’t get me and I don’t get him, at least there will be words on the page.

At least there will be some semblance of a manual, of my manual.

At least he can start to understand the specific problems I was designed to solve.

And maybe, just maybe, he can start to ask himself what specific problems he was designed to solve.