Let's get one thing straight, I'm no Brent Almond. He of Designer Daddy fame has been sweetly tucking hand-drawn cartoon monsters and superheroes into his son's lunch box every day for this entire school year. He's the kind of dad that makes the rest of us look like lazy bozos. I can't even begin to compete with that level of 1) commitment and 2) talent. Instead, what I do for both of my daughters is pack fresh lunches with love every day of the week, but yummy sandwiches and snacks are all they get. No superheroes, no Sharpie hearts drawn lovingly on Ziploc baggies, no nothing.
During the final week of February, all that changed, because at the end of that week, my oldest girl waved goodbye to her single digit years. The occasion called for something more than egg salad on pita bread, more than organic fruit snacks, more than a drinkable yogurt, more than anything I'd packed her before.
From Monday through Thursday of her pre-turning-10 school week, I snuck her little treats -- a Fuji water bottle instead of her normal reusable one, a chocolate chip cookie dough protein bar, a Series 11 LEGO minifig blind pack, and a jar of baby food (inside joke). But on day 5, I wrote her a letter. Not by hand, mind you, because the symmetry of the typed work is part of the story, part of our story. You see, my first-born child gave me a chance at a new kind of life, the kind spent at home as a dad first and foremost, and the kind that allowed me the time to type away as a storyteller, a digital chronicler of a well-lived, elongated and illustrious childhood. We like to think of ourselves, us parents, as the sculptors, but really, it's our children who are molding us, accentuating our strengths and forcing us to reckon with our shortcomings. If we are open to the experience, we will become better people as we parent. This is exactly the gift my first daughter gave, and continues to give, to me: a reason to try harder, to strive to accomplish all that I am capable of, just as I, and we, tell our children they can do -- to chase dreams with unrelenting fervor.
I needed to express, in one typed page, a gratitude so immense that its only equal is the love I feel every time I look into her twinkling blue eyes.
It is said that the truest measure of a person is in the impact they have had on the world and on those around them, and I agree wholeheartedly. Using this simple formula, I've reflected back on your 10 years on Earth and have concluded that you are the most special kind of person there is. You have brought, and continue to bring, immense joy into the hearts and minds of the people who love and care about you dearly -- mom mom and pop pop, your sister, mommy, cousins, aunts, uncles, teachers and, of course, me, your daddy.
Your passionate expressions of love and wonderment are the reason I was able to become a full-time dad at home with you and your sister, and I cannot thank you enough for that. You've also been the inspiration for every word I have ever written on the Internet, in magazines and in the books I hope to one day have published so that you might be proud of me, and know that joyous feeling of massive pride in a loved one that I've been so fortunate to have experienced since the day you were born.
Your kindness, generosity, patience, willingness to love and to forgive, your powerful brain, uproarious sense of humor, sharp and quick wit, and your overall awesomeness is an example I myself try to live up to every day.
You are an extraordinary, and yes, AWESOME, young woman and I never ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever want you to forget it or stop believing it. Because I won't.
It has been, and continues to be, an honor and a privilege to be your daddy.
Happy 10th birthday, kiddo!
With so much love,
My oldest girl is the person I always wished I could be, but I dare not say exactly those words to her, not now, not yet. The heaviness of that statement could too easily become a burden, with weighty expectation too massive for a young child, and that's what she still is, even at age 10. So I spent an entire day and night writing, rewriting, editing and massaging the text you read above. I wished to make her smile and to make her proud to have a dad who would think to write such a letter and stuff it into her lunch box. I also wished, maybe above all else, to craft a letter special enough so that she'll tuck it into her all-time favorite book, behind a framed photograph of the two of us, somewhere close to her heart, and cherish it forever. The letter is purposefully not grandiose, but I hope it will be one of the remnants of my life that outlives me, one of her daddy's typed-up pieces that she'll eventually share with her dear friends, her children, and their children, while they eat freshly made lunches and read about superheroes and adorable hand-drawn monsters.