Afraid he’d forget to pass a bit of vital advice onto his daughters, Trace Meyer decided to write it all down.
I am amazed the hospital let my wife and I walk out of the hospital with our baby. I know I’m not alone. No guidance, supervision, manual, phone number to call, nothing. Not even a pat on the back or an adios- just the crippling weight of trying to figure out the car seat and sleep deprivation. Many years later I still long for that mythical guide. The wise tomb that will advise as each new challenge presents itself. Bullying? No problem, chapter 3. Discipline? Chapter 5. As a parent I hope to guide them to one day become fulfilled, self sufficient, happy, and so many other things, but what concerns me is: what happens if I’m not around to guide them? And what happens if I forget to give them that really great piece of advice that might be make a difference in their lives?
To that end, I started writing my girls a letter. Nothing that could replace that mythical guide of my dreams, but something that might help comfort and guide them in my absence. As I began, one of the first problems I encountered was: at what age would I give this to them? And to that purpose, for what age am I writing this? Some thoughts and concepts are universal, but others will not translate from an eight-year-old to a twenty-eight-year-old the same.
So I began with a large list of my thoughts and started to filter. Many were redundant, and some I found more trivial. I would work on this inconsistently every now and then when a thought would pull me to act. As I continued to edit and ask myself what I really considered important, a problem asserted itself.
What began as moodiness, in one of my daughters, and naturally grew out of hormones, secrets, sassiness, and shyness became rudeness. This was my eldest, and I was assured that I haven’t seen anything yet as far as teenagers go. The problem, though, was the silence. She was increasingly alone in her head, and I could see that she had problems that were apart from us—and I was confident she didn’t have the skills yet to handle all that I want her to. So in a mildly desperate attempt, I cleaned up a bit of the rough draft and gave this to her. This is part of the letter.
I’ve been writing a letter to you and Astrid for over a year now. It’s not finished, but I thought this might be a good time to give you a little bit of it:
You both have been great teachers. You might think the reverse, but it’s true. You have taught me much. Living with you both has reminded me of my own experiences and helped me to grow and love in ways I never knew possible. Know that nothing in my life has ever been more rewarding than being a part of both of yours. Of the many things I have discovered as a parent, you have reminded me about my own childhood.
Parents forget certain things. We forget what it was like finding your way, discovering who you are. We forget the pressures, the intensity, the never-ending piles of work, the schedules, and living by rules. The uncertainty. We have choices, and we often forget that you don’t—even and especially while reminding you of them. But know that we do remember many things too, and we are trying to lead you to the best of our abilities and through our experiences both good and bad. Sure we make mistakes—all parents do. All parents are unprepared when we start, and we do the best we can as we grow together. One of our goals is to help you acquire the skills that will help you live a full life. Note that I do not say happiness. I specifically want much more for you than happiness; I want you to be fulfilled.
There are four crucial things I want to emphasize.
1- I am proud of you. Immensely. You won’t hear this enough from me, and for that reason, this is number one on my list. I am prouder of you than I could hope to express. Life is many wonderful things, but it is rarely easy or fair. I’ve witnessed the bruises and bumps, the trials and the tribulations, and your hard work. I’m proud to have witnessed your bravery—standing up for others—and your accomplishments. I know you have much more to do, but take comfort knowing that you have done a great job. Life holds uncertainty, and your direction will change many times. You will have doubts and questions—and that’s perfectly natural. I am not proud of you because I have to be. I am proud of you because of who you are, what you do, and what you are constantly becoming.
2- I love you. This is also number-one on the list, but I am confident you already know this. I love you both—absolutely no matter what. You will do things I don’t like, things I don’t approve of. You’ll make mistakes, but none of that will keep me from loving you. Nothing. There is nothing in this world that won’t keep me from loving you both.
3- There are no limits to what you can do. You can achieve anything. Absolutely Nothing is impossible. You are both smart, capable, imaginative, and hard-working. This potential you have is a gift, but it can also be a burden. There is no one way to do things- but trust your heart and do what brings you joy, happiness, and fulfillment. Stay curious about life, and never quit learning. You will never cease to be rewarded and amazed with this world if you keep looking, studying, and embracing. I hope this stays with you throughout your lives.
4- I don’t care what you do in life, as long as you focus your life around love. I don’t care what, who, or how you love. Just love.
So that is the crux of the letter I have been working on for both of you, and I wanted you to read this before I communicated to you what is currently on my mind…
The next day she thanked me for giving her this letter. I asked her if she read it all, and she said that she had. We have yet to discuss it further, and though I’d be happy to talk about it in detail, I don’t’ know that it will be necessary.
—Photo Markus Reinhardt/Flickr