This is a letter that I wrote to my daughter before her 15th birthday in Sept. 2016
First off I want you to know that this letter is not because you are in trouble or have done anything wrong. What it is, is a letter to my beautiful and ever-growing daughter as she transitions into a woman leaving the little girl she once was far behind.
What I want this letter to be is me sharing my thoughts and feelings with you. I am not very good with my words as they often come out wrong or I get tongue-tied very easily. I let my emotions get in the way of my ability to communicate. I let my emotions get in the way of playing fun family sports like our cottage Olympics.
And very recently, like in the last few days I’ve suddenly realized how my actions as your dad have in turn effected the girl/woman you are right now. Watching our lack of interaction yesterday made me cry. At the end of the day, my oldest daughter wanted to spend her entire Saturday at home staring at tiny 2.5 inch cracked screen. I asked if you wanted to play cards, I asked if you wanted to watch a movie, I asked and stopped by your door several times to see what you were up to, and if at the very least we could talk.
You wanted to do your own thing I will always respect that. A little later that day I started to vacuum the house, and Austin stopped what he was doing and grabbed his vacuum to copy and follow along and help Daddy.
Watching him copy my movements and actions I had a moment of clarity as it is called. That is a moment when you suddenly completely understand something. Truly understand and get what the meaning of your direct actions are.
Looking at Austin and then looking at you I had that moment of clarity.
You have watched for years your Dad ignore you so he could stare at a tiny 2.5 inch not broken 🙂 screen, playing Clash of Clans or whatever other waste of time stupid game I was currently playing.
What I should have been doing is playing with you and Megan.
Instead you watched your Dad stare at a screen, and you learned from watching that well, that is what you do to entertain yourself. Stare at a screen.
Emily let me be perfectly clear here. There is nothing wrong with your actions. You are not doing anything wrong. It took me 44 years, and the entire invention of and development of computers and technology and right up through into and including yesterday to finally understand.
I cannot blame my lack of relationship with you on anyone else but me. You learn your behaviours from the world around you. When you were young and in your formative years. These are the years where you pick up habits, learn to handle your emotions and a billion other things. But a lot of how to behave and how you will act in society or out with other people is also formed in these years. So in other words the girl that you are today is in part because of how I was as a Dad. Yes there were other factors involved but I was one of them and I should have been the biggest.
The last few years I have had many thoughts about life and kids and family and how it all worked together, how they all interacted with each other. When I was a kid like yourself I had pretty much a very similar to the life that you have today. A similar upbringing if you will, the way you were raised. I see myself much like my parents were, and are today. Definitely some differences but I find that those things were we are different were choices that I had made somewhere along the way when I was old enough to understand why my parents did some of the things that they did.
You my dear are definitely your father’s daughter. In the way you handle your emotions, your inability to communicate what is going on inside your head, to the words you use, to some of the choices you make.
This is very hard for me to admit.
The easiest thing for a parent to do is do nothing.
It’s easy. Nothing. It doesn’t take any work to do nothing. No effort required to do nothing. Nothing today… nothing tomorrow…
So as I sit here and type this letter. It would be easy to do nothing.
Just let you be. Do nothing.
You seem to be happy on the surface level. I cannot seem to get a good deep heart to heart talk with you, but then again I’ve never taught you, or heck, even talked to you in that way. Part of me hopes this letter is the first step in repairing that relationship and ability to talk with each other.
I just saw you cry because you think you have no friends. It’s seems to be a tough weekend for that. And by that I mean feeling lonely. I am pretty sure that after yesterday and not having any real contact with your friends or even your family you will feel lonely.
This is Dad being totally honest Emily. On Friday night and for about a half an hour on Saturday morning I cried because perhaps like you were feeling today I feel incredibly lonely right now. Dad doesn’t really have any close friends right now either. It has been a really tough summer for me in terms on doing things that I enjoy with my friends at work. Much like me, lots of things to take up your time. Too many in fact.
I didn’t get to play baseball this year which I always enjoy. I didn’t get to play volleyball last week because of my back. I was going to have a party here last Sunday but decided to cancel it the last-minute so I could come to the cottage with you guys and was really looking forward to an awesome week there with my family.
But it just didn’t happen like I had wanted it to. That first Monday morning I woke up and had no strength in my lower back. We never really talked about it much but my back kept me from swimming a lot, from going kayaking, playing sports, etc…
That one game of catch we played I couldn’t even bend over to pick up the ball, and I am sure that to you I appeared irritated and angry. NOT WITH YOU Emily. But with my inability to play catch with my daughter. That is what I was upset with.
And this is what I have been talking about the last few paragraphs of this letter. I couldn’t talk to you about my back and just explain what happened, and perhaps come up with some other activities we could have done together. And spent that time that I really, really wanted to spend not only with you but the other guys as well.
The cottage was relaxing. But again Emily, I was lonely there. Danielle spent most of her time with her family and sister, the advantage of having them there from her point of view. And let’s look at Danielle’s family real quickly. They are all still a apart of each other lives now that they have grown up and are raising their own kids.
Look at Dad’s side of the family. We don’t really see Julie or David much anymore. My Mom and Dad even less than them. But it didn’t always used to be this way. Over the years it seems that my family just drifted apart. People kept moving just a little bit further and further away. We started to see each other less and less. And now it’s like once a year. You had the chance to see Sydney and Morgan earlier this summer for a swim date, but you didn’t want to get out of bed. Why? I am guessing you were tired cause you were up late with a face buried into a 2.5 inch screen.
Social media vs the real world.
Is it because you have watched your dad not put much effort in over the years to see his family, and just act the same way. A behaviour you learned from watching the life around you unfold. It is not something you would ever pay attention to but your mind and the way it works would pick up on it, it is what I called a learned behaviour.
If for example, my family was around all the time and we saw them often and had dinner there on a regular basis then you would grow up with the same ideas, the same thoughts on how this is how a family works, and that is how most likely you will interact with your family when you get older.
Do you see where I am going with this?
Danielle does this with her mom and sister on a regular basis.
Dad doesn’t seem his parents or sister much at all.
So here I sit as a 44-year-old father of six kids. And I can tell you that I WANT, I need my family interaction to be like Danielle’s family is and continues to be. Much more so than what I have with my parents and my brother and sister. I miss them all very much, and wish we did things more together as a family. What we don’t have is that one person that will continue to make sure everyone stays in touch and organize and works to make sure the family stays in touch. Even if you live 1/2 way around the world.
Look at your mom quickly, she still makes a point of talking to you at the very least every couple of days even when you are on vacation. It is important to her to maintain that communication with you because she wants that to be a part of her life as you ladies get older and develop lives and families of your own
Emily so do I. This is what doesn’t let me sleep at night, is the fact that why am I not doing the same thing? Why am I not the guy that makes sure his family stays together, stays in touch and talks to each other.
Why am I doing nothing?
The answer is because it is easy to do nothing. As stated before nothing takes no effort, especially when you are afraid. Emily I am very afraid.
I am afraid I am too late.
I am afraid that by trying to create a stronger bond I will push you further away.
I am afraid that I will lack the conviction to follow through with what I say, or in this case type.
I am just afraid. Big tough grumpy old Dad is afraid. I am afraid to try.
Or least I was.
You know what I am more afraid of than any of that?
I am very afraid of being alone. I often think of my Dad at the age of 86 sitting in that condo all alone. How does he think and feel? How alone does my Dad feel? He was afraid to do anything to change the relationships in his life. Maybe he didn’t take the time to realize and understand how his actions now would affect the rest of his life. I know my Dad was all about work and I don’t have many memories of us doing things together.
I am afraid you have the same thoughts and feelings towards me.
Emily I love you so very much. As a child and parent relationship is takes a lot to damage or destroy that relationship. We will always love each other.
My parents never ever once talked to me about how they felt. What they were thinking. They were mom and Dad and that was that. Even to this day they have never talked to me about raising kids, what they thought and felt. What they wanted out of life, how they struggle with time OR lack of it.
None of these things. Today kids just aren’t like that anymore. I can see it through working at the Keg for 20 years. And working with a 14 to 30 crowd of people over a 20 year span you can see the differences in the way I talk to, relate to and manage a 14-year-old girl from 2016 than I would a 14 year old girl back in 1996.
The world in which you currently live is way different in the way we communicate with each other. It used to be a phone call and actually talk to someone… Back in 1996 there was no Facebook, no Instagram, Snapchat, etc… And somewhere in this transition from actually talking to someone transformed to sending a few words on a screen.
I can live with and will certainly continue to use technology as society dictates it goes, but what I will not do anymore is stare mindlessly at a screen when there are many, many other wonderful things that I could be doing with my time.
Taking my beautiful daughters shopping is certainly one of them. I hope we can and expect that these things will continue to happen between us.
At this point in our lives. I want us to be friends. I want you to think your Dad is cool and you want to spend time with him. That’s it.
If we can do that, then everything else that I want out of life comes along with that. We need to have a bond between us that transcends time and distance. Meaning even if life takes you to the other side of the world I want you and I to have a connection that only a father and daughter who love each other, are friends and can talk to the other person.
Emily I want to be your biggest supporter in your search for your dreams.
I want to be the shoulder to cry on when things don’t go your way. When life isn’t fair. And Emily, it’s often not fair.
I want to be there for advice, for support, to help pick you up when you fall. And to be there to celebrate your greatest successes. Whatever that is. Where ever life may take you.
I want to be a better Father. A better Dad. And a better friend.
Do Nothing. That’s easy.
You are worth every single effort it takes from this second forward to be a Dad. I love you.