My darling sons,

From the moment your mama and I welcomed you into this world two years ago, we have admired your enthusiasm for life, our hearts have fluttered over your sighs, and we have basked in your unabashed requited adoration for us, your grateful mothers.

I always had a sense I would have twin sons one day, but I also believed my father would be around to see it happen — and would be the gentle grandfather who would gladly read a thousand books with you, never tire of showing you how to bait a fishing hook and lavish you with praise for your achievements, the way he did for me. Crushingly, his heart stopped ticking two months shy of his 62nd birthday and eight months before your parents’ wedding, and I have faith he’s watching over you from somewhere else, but I promise to share with you his ever-lasting humanity and grace that he blessed me with.

I also hoped my big brother would be the one to show you how to master the bicycle kick to score as many goals as you can dream of, teach you the art of gliding the razor gently over your chin when you start to grow scruffy, and be around for guy questions that you’d rather have your underpants flying on a flag pole than ask your moms. Terrifyingly, a sudden fatal illness snapped him, a healthy 36-year-old, from us earlier this year, and it’s up to me and the rest of our shrinking family to keep his memory alive for you and his two children.

My dearest chickadees, I want you to know that although we may have lost the two most important men in my life, you are the two most important boys in my life. And you are beyond blessed with an amazing mother, a woman I am honored to share my life with. Your mama has achieved so much in terms of what’s unfairly deemed “masculine” activities, from roofing and painting our house to building our expansive fence, digging each post hole by hand in a cold winter while you stayed warm in my belly to tiling our floors and maintaining our hardy plants and thriving garden. She can out-pitch most guys her age in fast-pitch softball, and calculate and comprehend complex scientific and mathematical facts with her overachieving brain in a dizzying speed.

Sweet dumplings, I promise you that you have all you need as parents from your mommy and mama. We will hold you close when you need holding close, but we will encourage you to fly from the nest when you’re ready to soar. We will teach you to be kind and loving to every human being, paying no mind to their perceived race, gender or status level. In our two-mom home, your tender humanity which we’ve already witnessed with awe will be encouraged and tended to. You’ll know how to court a girl or a boy, for friendship when you’re young, and romance when you’re older.

But we do have men we hold close to our hearts, and for this we are humbly grateful. My father’s brother, a highly educated man with a world of knowledge to share, holds two spots in his heart that burn brightly for you. And Mama comes from a large and wonderful family; this is where you get your passionate Italian personalities that (usually) delight us. Mama’s passionate father, her brothers, brothers-in-law and nephews all love you deeply and will be there for you by and large, every step of the way as you grow from our precious little boys to leading men of the world. I promise you will have every opportunity to spend time with all of these men in our family, even though it will require more road trips and maneuvering of schedules. We want to do this for you.

After your uncle passed away, I was devastated. Not only for what I lost, but for what you lost, as well. But I promise you that I have found as close to a replacement as I can in our friends and family who are interested in serving as your strong male role models. Because while your mother and I know that we can teach you almost everything there is to know about developing into strong and capable human beings, we also know that you’re going to need male guidance along the way. And we promise to provide it for you by fostering and tending to relationships with men we believe possess the qualities we all can learn from.

I love you more than anything in the world, my precious sons. I chose your mother nine years ago as my lifetime companion, knowing that I wanted to raise children with her because of her deep-rooted compassion for the world at large, her strong traditional family values, her work ethic, her charming good looks and because she can make me laugh until my sides hurt. When we married four years ago, we were eager to grow our family and share our cozy nest with a baby or two. We were ecstatic (OK, maybe Mama was a little frightened) when we learned our two babies were coming at once. Our hearts were jumping with joy (and a little anxiety) as we counted down the weeks until your arrival. And ever since you blessed us with your squeezable legs, shiny bright eyes and nearly edible button noses, our hearts have been melted in puddles on the floor.

For everything that you have given us with your two years of life — from belly laughs to raucous delight to surprise food flying high in the air to sleepless nights to warm neck nuzzles to developing your fascinating language skills from “goo goo gaga” to “more oatmeal, please” to reminding us that family, a group of two or more human beings who love each other fiercely, is what life is all about, for all of this, my sons, I promise to give you back tenfold. You will never know a day that you are not loved, wanted and accepted unconditionally. This I promise you.


Editor’s note: This essay was originally published on 6/12/2013 on and The Huffington Post.