Category: Musings

A letter to my daughter on her third birthday

A letter to my daughter on her third birthday

My dearest Elizabeth,

Today you are three. Thank you for letting us be a part of the most amazing year. One where you’ve learned how to express what you want and feel, where you’ve spent every moment learning and discovering new things, on where you’ve started to make friends, and realised it’s okay to venture out on your own sometimes. One where you’ve revealed that you have the most incredible imagination, and that you care deeply for others.

The so-called “terrible twos” did not exist in our home. It was just a year of endless wonder.

Today I only have one piece of wisdom to impart:

It’s not about you.

I don’t expect you to understand this yet – many people go their entire lives without ever understanding this; I’m not sure I do yet – but I hope one day you’ll read this and understand.

You are amazing. You are beautiful, you are so smart it scares me sometimes, you are precious, you matter, and to your mother and me you are the most important thing in the universe.

But this life…it’s not about you.

The second half of the Great Commandment says, “Love your neighbour as you love yourself,” which is really just another way to say, it’s not about you.

The person you are, the gifts you have received, are not for your benefit. You may most certainly enjoy what you’ve been given, but never forget that ultimately your purpose on this Earth is to do good to others. For their sake, not yours.

In practical terms that means be considerate. Think how your actions, even your well-intentioned ones, will affect others. Put the needs of others ahead of your own. Be willing to come in second if someone else really needs the win. Do what’s right, even if it doesn’t feel good. Treat everyone with respect, even if they don’t give you that same courtesy. Share what you have freely, and never pass by an opportunity to serve another.

It’s not easy to live this way, and I think I fail at it far more than I succeed. But it’s the key to a fulfilling life, and the secret to fixing this mess we’ve made the world into – things are the way they are because everyone just tries to take as much for themselves as they can, but you have the power to change that. Each one of us has.

I hope this makes sense to you one day, and I pray that I’ll be able to set you an example of what it means to live this way.

With all my love,

Dad

Standing for something

It’s election year in South Africa. This fact was suddenly brought home to me on Sunday when, turning out of our street, we were confronted with election posters on every lamppost on the way to church. Only one party’s, by the way – looks like they decided to get an early start.

Election posters are only that big, so parties usually come up with a slogan that’s short enough to fit in while big enough that motorists can read them without squinting so desperately at the poster that they actually run into the lamppost supporting it. In an ideal world, that slogan will also tell people what your party stands for.

This party must have one hell of a copywriter, or they don’t stand for much, as they managed to keep their slogan to only two words:

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Letter

I have many old books in my house, collected from second hand shops, flea markets and church fêtes over the years. Today the Minion discovered this in a dusty old copy of Black Beauty (publication date unknown)…

It seems pretty old. I wonder how it made it all the way across the Atlantic.

Was it a love letter from a soldier to his sweetheart back home?

A letter to a little girl from her pen-pal on the other side of the world?

A secret missive smuggled across the ocean in a children’s book?

Okay, okay. That third one wouldn’t require a stamp. But still. If this stamp could talk, I wonder what tale it would tell.


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A letter to my daughter on her second birthday

A letter to my daughter on her second birthday

My dearest Elizabeth,

How time has flown. Once again it feels like I last wrote a letter to you just the other day, but it’s already been an entire year! Two, now, since the first time I’ve held you.

Since the last letter you’ve learned to walk, and run, and crawl (in that order), you’ve learned to talk, you’ve learned to throw a ball and catch it, and to jump and to skip. It is amazing to see how fast you learn and pick things up – your mum and I have to watch what we say around you these days, as you’re starting to repeat everything you hear. You give the best hugs ever.

You are fearless, in a way that both awes and terrifies me – I constantly need to remind myself my job is to teach you to get back up when you fall, not to prevent you from falling. Seeing the way in which you seek out new experiences, the way you go off exploring on your own without us holding your hand…I wonder if I was ever that brave. Never lose that. The world is there for you to conquer.

One piece of advice – when you don’t succeed at something, take a deep breath, and try again. Frustration is natural, but that way lies the dark side. Don’t give in to the dark side. One day we’ll talk about when it is okay to quit and walk away for good, but for now, keep calm, keep trying, and figure it out. You are unbelievably smart. I’m sure there’s nothing you won’t be able to master as long as you set your mind to it and keep at it.

 You’ve made a phenomenal success of your second year, as I knew you would. The next one will be even better, and I’m glad I can be a part of it. Happy birthday.

Love,

Dad