When my oldest son Ryan was in 6th grade, he was given an assignment to create a “time capsule” of things he loved and were important to him at that time so that one day, he could open it back up for a glimpse into the person he used to be, that made him who he is today. When Ryan was packing up his bedroom to move off to college, he decided that was the time to open the capsule. He laughed at toys he saved, cringed at things he thought were cool back then, and loved reading what he had written about himself at the time, and the goals he had hoped to achieve as an adult.
That’s a pretty cool thing to be able to look back on, seeing your younger self through your adult eyes. As parents, we generally tend to take a ton of pictures of our kids growing up, some save a favorite shirt, stuffed animal, book, art project, toy, first haircut clump, all the baby teeth that fell out, and the umbilical clip from birth (ok, maybe I went a little overboard on the memory box, but whatever) so that we can look back on our kids’ lives and then one day pass those keepsakes down to them (they have already told me they do NOT want the umbilical clip and teeth) so they can see themselves through our eyes.
Over the past two years, Wil has done a ton of emotional healing from a childhood where he did not feel loved by his parents. What he did feel (and had to work through as an adult) was a childhood of being bullied, used, and abused by the parents who brought him into this world. As he worked his ass off to come out of that lifelong pain, he started remembering all the ways he worked so hard to be a parent to my boys whom I brought into our relationship when Wil was 23 years old, I was 26, and the kids (Ryan and Nolan) were just 6 and 4.
I met Wil on NYE turning 1996 and after several weeks of getting to know each on our own time, I eventually introduced the kids to Wil. Nine months later we all moved in together, and three years after that, Wil and I got married. From the moment we moved in together, Wil was their father in every way a father should be to a child. He loved them unconditionally, he supported them, played with them, listened to their triumphs and struggles, and taught them how to be kind, compassionate, empathetic people, despite their biological father’s constant reminders directly to Wil that he “was not their father.” Those years are full of a ton of wonderful memories and for all of us in different ways, we also remember the pain and struggles we all had to endure at the hand of a man who was biologically the father to Ryan and Nolan, but not much else.
What I didn’t see for many years (because I was not on the internets until maybe 10 years ago) was that Wil was using his blog to write about silly or fun things the kids did with each other, with Wil, or all of us as a family (FYI, we discussed early on that we would not post pics of our kids online when they were growing up, and we agreed that he wouldn’t post super embarrassing stuff directly related to their actions, or any details of what their bio-dad was putting us all through, on his blog.) Wil would occasionally write something about the kids and then print it out for me to read (on account of me not on the internet back in 2001 when he started writing about them) before he posted it just to be sure I was ok with it but after a while, we both realized he was doing a great job sharing while respecting privacy, so he stopped printing them out for me.
Several weeks ago, Wil started going through his blog and realized he basically created a “time capsule” of Ryan and Nolan’s childhood with those posts he was writing about them from 2001 to 2011, so he decided to compile all of those stories and put them into a book for the kids, so they could see their childhood (that eventually ended with Ryan and Nolan both asking Wil to adopt them as adults so he is legally their dad as well) through Wil’s eyes. Aaaand now I’m crying. I found some pictures that I’d taken of all three of them over the years and our friend Will Hindmarch used those pictures to create a jacket for the book with those photos on the front and back covers, and on the inside flaps. With Wil’s permission, I wanted to share the cover and the final story he wrote in it, where he “introduced” his family to the internet. This book will never be for sale but all of the posts are still on Wil’s blog at wil wheaton [dot] net if you feel like spending some time scrolling back to read them all. He printed a small batch of the books so the kids could have some for themselves now, and for their own families one day, as well as for the people in our lives who became our family over the years, who love Ryan and Nolan and have been a huge part of our lives. There’s one thing we learned a long time ago and that is blood does not necessarily make a family, it’s how you nurture relationships with love, compassion, and respect for the people in your life, that makes one.
11 thoughts on ““When You Were Young””
It’s just lovely 💕
This is awesome! From the time our daughter was born through about the first 10 years of her life, my wife ran an email listserv for parents with disabilities to share tips with each other. I need to go spelunking through all of those old emails and do something like this!
I read everyone of those stories… I remember reading the blog in the early days and just being amazed at how much love he had for them.
This is lovely. As I responded to Wil on his post today, I was adopted at age five weeks when I am told that I chose my parents. That is who parents are and Wil is the best possible father to Ryan and Nolan!
You are the most amazing and deserving family, canines, feline, and Homo sapiens. I’ll give you all a covid-proof cyber hug.
I remember Wil posting that photo very clearly, and how much I enjoyed finally getting to see the loving family he wrote about. Your relationship is inspirational. x
I started reading Wil’s blog in…2002? I think that’s right. I had just started dating someone with a 5-year-old daughter who I quickly became a dad to. I was lucky that her biodad had never been in the picture and her mom’s first husband was quickly cut out of the picture after we got together. Wil’s posts about Ryan and Nolan, first talking about his stepsons and then eventually, with no fanfare, talking about his sons, have always meant a lot to me because of my relationship to my daughter. (It was also his family posts that made me say “Whoever this Anne is, she sounds really funny.” So it was great getting to know you on Twitter and see that Wil was underselling just how funny you are.) Anyway, I LOVE this book and I love that it’s not for anyone but the family. I love that you were all building the kind of family you all needed, one where partners, parents, and children are all respected, accepted, and loved.
I was one of the teenage girls with Wil’s pictures plastered all over my wall. It pains me to know the suffering he endured during that time. I’m so happy that he found you and your boys so he could truly experience the love of a family. Thank you for making Wil happy! 💜
I love this. Thank you for sharing. I remember these stories so fondly, and I’m so glad your family has this memento of love to share. Massive long-distance hugs (and Iron Guard salutes where appropriate, of course) from wabbit.
What an amazing thing to do, not just for the boys, but also for yourselves. I remember when Wil posted that introduction. It was such a lovely moment. I am on the path to becoming a foster-adoptive parent, and Wil has long been a mentor for me in as I prepared to become a loving parent to my children. His stories about being Ryan and Nolan’s dad have helped me so much. I post similar anecdotes about my kids, and Wil’s stories are a big influence on those. I hope my kids will someday get the same joy out of reading them as your boys and their families will surely get from those wonderful books you’ve made for them.
Beautiful. I’m not much of a wordsmith so all I can say is this is beautiful, just beautiful.
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