Tag: fatherhood

A letter to my daughter on her fourth birthday

A letter to my daughter on her fourth birthday

My dearest Elizabeth,

Today you turned four. It took quite a bit of convincing before you believed that’s a good thing…I’m actually not sure you’re completely sold on the idea yet. “3” has been your favourite number since you learned, somewhere along the line, about having favourites, and you’ve not been very impressed with the idea of not being your favourite number any more.

But you proudly showed four fingers today when Oupa Kokkie and Ouma Iréne asked how old you are, so you’re already adapting. You’re truly amazing in how well you adapt to change…

2020 has been a year we won’t forget soon, and we’ve likely not seen the worst of it yet. I have darker days where I wonder if we’ll both still be around and that I can write you another one of these in a year’s time.

As I write this, we’re in the middle of a pandemic, with a virus that has infected millions, and killed hundreds of thousands of people worldwide since the start of the year. You’ve only left our yard a handful of times since March. You haven’t seen your friends or played on the beach, and are already completely used to the idea that your ballet classes takes place in our living room, with images of your teacher and fellow ballerinas being streamed onto the TV.

And you have been incredible. You’ve accepted the new normal with barely a complaint, and when we leave the house you wear your mask with a smile. You make art, you’ve started your own veggie garden (can’t wait until it’s time to harvest your first crop of butternuts), you tell stories, play games, go on adventures, help around the house.

And you care. You have empathy on a level that many adults will never achieve. I guess being stuck at home with your mom and me, each of us trying to deal with our stress in our own way, you can’t help but pick up on it. I am sorry for this – I wish I knew how to do a better job protecting you against this, as you shouldn’t be sharing these types of burdens with us yet – but it has brought out something beautiful in you.

I can’t express how much it means when you come to my office just to give me a hug, or when you walk up to me, look me in the eye, and tell me I’m the best. It’s a cliche, but you truly are a little ray of hope in our lives.

I admit, I’m afraid, not just for our immediate future, but for the world you’ll be growing up in once this is over. But when I look at you laughing and smiling and finding ways to cope without even really understanding what you’re coping with, I’m a little less afraid. Because I see a little girl who’s going to grow up to be someone who makes a plan, who knows how to find the hidden moments of joy around us, and who makes the best of what life throws at you.

This birthday I don’t have any sage advice for you. I only have thanks. Thank you for being you, for being the best little girl a dad can ask for, for hugs and giggles and kisses on my cheek and back-scratches and make-believe tea and crawling into my lap not because you need to be held, but because you can tell I need to hold you.

Love you more than I can say.

Dad

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

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

A letter to my daughter on her first birthday

My dearest Elizabeth,

I can’t believe we’re here already. It feels like yesterday that I got to hold you for the first time.

You are growing ever more beautiful, and you’re smart – I stand amazed at how you figure out new things each day. You’re becoming your own little person, and as difficult as it is to admit you’re my little baby a little less every day, that is something incredible to behold.

As the Psalmist said, you are fearfully and wonderfully made.

The world has become a bit more scary in the past year, but every day good things happen as well, if you know where to look for them. This past year we’ve embarked on a grand adventure, moving to a new home with new things for you to see and do. I’m sorry for all the stress and disruption it caused you, but you did brilliantly. I’m so proud of you.

You’ve learned what it is to be hurt, tired, uncomfortable, and frightened. But I know you also know what it feels like to be loved, to be cared for, and to be safe, though you can’t name those feelings yet. You’ve learned that if you call, someone comes, and that’s much more than many people know.

You were born knowing how to cry, but you’ve since learned to laugh, something you do every day, and it’s the most beautiful sound that exists in this universe. I understand why that’s the sound the story says gives birth to fairies…

There’s a big year ahead of you. A year in which you’ll learn to walk and talk, and start to take care of yourself in little ways. You’ll learn to make choices, and with that you’ll make mistakes. It will be a while still before you’ll learn about regret, but in the coming year you’ll definitely start learning about consequences, even if you won’t quite understand them yet.

I want you to know that I’ll be there each step of the way. I won’t always do the right thing. Some days I’ll act without thinking. Some days I’ll hurt you without meaning to. But I’ll do everything I can to be there when you need me, to teach you and guide you and protect you.

This parenting thing is very much a case of making it up as you go along, but you seem happy, so I think we’re doing it right. I can only hope one day when you read this that you’ll agree with me.

Happy Birthday, my child, and good luck with the next year of your life. It’s gonna be awesome.

With all my love,

Dad