Dear Ben and Grace,
At four years and five months old, respectively, you’re both too young to be able to read this by yourselves. But I hope one day when you’re a bit older and have a little more understanding of the world that you’ll stumble upon this and reflect upon it.
First of all, I wanted to say how proud I am of you both. Whilst it’s hard to be proud of the actions of a five month-old you, Grace, manage to give me big, beaming smiles just at the right time to help me forget your impressively-piercing crying ability and tendency every now and again to fool us into thinking that you know how to sleep through. I’m also mightily impressed at the way that you’ve managed to surpass even Ben in the putting-on-weight front. Above the 99.6th percentile? Impressive.
With you, Ben, it’s easy to quantify and express the ways in which I’m proud of you. As I keep saying, I’m proud of you because you try so hard. Never stop that. You’re going to come up against challenges in life which are completely unfair and which, in the main, will seem to be the result of ‘the system’ rather than the individuals comprising it. Don’t let that put you off. You can change that system. Your Daddy spent his first thirty years on this earth believing the half-truths people told him about qualifications and job titles mattering. They don’t. Carry on doing what you do now: focus on relationships, focus on happiness (your own and other people’s), and try your best to be as good as you can be at the things you enjoy doing. Everything important flows from these things.
I can’t predict the future, but what I can predict is my enduring love for you both and for your Mummy. I don’t know where we’ll be living next year never mind by the time you come to read this, but I do know that how we live is a lot more important than where we live. So I’m sorry for the times when I’ve neglected you both due to work, a selfish mood or an undue fascination with technology. You’re both so important to me in ways I only realise when you’re not there.
Much as sometimes I feel I’d like to, I can’t be around to protect you all of the time: not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually too. Both of you are going to come across narrow-minded and shallow people. You’re going to struggle to understand people who trade authenticity for material possessions and their hopes and dreams for status. Don’t be tempted by that road. Strive instead to follow the path less travelled, the path where your first response to “What do you do?” isn’t simply repeating your job title. Although it will scare Mummy (especially)and Daddy to death, I implore you to go travelling at as young an age as you can. It really does broaden your outlook on life. And although this isn’t a “avoid what I regret” letter, never stop being creative: draw, paint, play musical instruments, speak foreign languages. Cultivate as many different ways of understanding the world as you can.
Most of all, my message to you this Fathers Day is that life can be whatever you want it to be: take risks! Ben, I’m trying to do that as much as possible with you now, which means you get into some scrapes; Grace, I know that I’m going to find this so much more difficult with you. Forgive me. Parenting really is the hardest job in the world sometimes (but I wouldn’t have it any other way).
Your Daddy, xx
Image CC BY-NC Deborah Leigh (Migraine Chick)