Several years ago, someone told me a story about “discovering your grateful heart.” So, I decided to work on that. Over the course of the next year, I sent one thank-you letter each week to a different person who had positively influenced the trajectory of my life. These were people from many phases of my life – family members, co-workers, even a former girlfriend – who had helped me in some way or taught me a valuable life lesson.
But it occurs to me, there are still two individuals I’ve never sent a special thank-you letter to – my daughters. It’s way overdue, because they’re both grown up now (23 and 22) and have moved away, embarking on their own life journeys.
There is so much I would want to tell them. I’d probably start by thanking them for choosing their mom and me as their “forever” parents, as we call it in adoption circles. When they were infants in two different Chinese orphanages, what are the odds they’d somehow get paired with us? Some people say children who are adopted are “lucky.” I say Michele and I are the lucky ones.
I’d thank my daughters for the many evenings they snuggled on either side of me at bedtime as I read them Goodnight Moon, Harold and the Purple Crayon, Nancy Drew, and countless other books.
I’d for sure express my appreciation for all the handmade Father’s Day gifts, from their cement handprints to their macaroni likenesses of me. And how can I forget to mention the special breakfast in bed they prepared one year. Burnt toast, Raisin Bran, gummy bears, and maple syrup never tasted so yummy.
I’d thank them for all the times during elementary school they would make me laugh out loud as I chased them around the playground, chanting, “Must get Emmy” before suddenly changing direction and shouting, “Must get Rachel,” which always made them squeal with delight.
I’d proudly acknowledge Rachel’s efforts to help her younger sister with her spelling by quizzing her – like the time we were driving past our local grocery store (officially called Quality Food Center, but whose sign only goes by its initials, QFC) and Rachel posed the challenging question, “Emmy, how do you spell QFC? Don’t look at the sign!!”
I’d certainly recognize how they taught me to handle public embarrassment calmly. Like when Rachel and I were at McDonald’s, and I was being silly. So, she mimicked one of my favorite nicknames for her (“Silly Goose”), shouting out for all to hear, “Oh Daddy, You Silly Gook!” (She could not pronounce her s’s).
I was far from a perfect dad as my girls grew up. For a few years, I spent far too much time at work instead of being there for them (and their mom). I would for sure want to apologize for that. And for not realizing sooner the dangers of concussions in those years in middle and high school that Rachel played select league soccer. I would want to tell Emily I am sorry I fought her so hard all those years about keeping her room tidy. In retrospect, I should have let go of that battle a lot sooner.
I would want to thank them for putting up with a father who would too often embarrass them in front of their friends, trying a little too hard to be the fun dad.
I’d thank them too for trusting me when I was the disciplinary dad, for all those timeouts and loss of cell phone privileges and the occasional grounding. I realize now that to some extent, they were just doing their job – to drive me crazy – with one foot in childhood and the other desperately lunging for adulthood. I hope they someday understand that I too was doing my job as a parent, trying in my imperfect way to teach them to be responsible and make good choices.
I would probably remind them in this letter – for the 100th time – that if they ever decide to marry, make sure, first and foremost, to marry a kind person. And to not let fear rule their decisions in life. And to follow their dreams, even if the path ahead looked daunting. Then I’d remember they’re not ten years old anymore and I’d probably apologize for my chronic need to offer my unsolicited parental advice.
I’d probably wrap up by reminding them that a day does not go by that I don’t think of them and how I thank the universe for choosing me to be the one they’ve called dad for as long as they can remember.
Finally, I’d close the way I’ve ended every letter or card I ever wrote them: LYTTUAB! – and they’d know what I mean. And maybe, just maybe, they’d realize just how thankful I am to be their dad.
That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.
Check out my latest humor book: YOU’RE GROUNDED FOR LIFE: Misguided Parenting Strategies That Sounded Good at the Time
© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2018