Tuesday, September 20, 2011

An open letter to my daughter, Molly.

     In the past few weeks, I've been reminded of the importance of a father demonstrating and professing his love for his children, especially his daughters, too many times to be just a coincidence.  I've encountered people that told me stories of Dads who were cold.  I went to a party and the guest speaker had a tale of her father turning her back on her that was heart wrenching.  I've learned that some friends and relatives were in bad and abusive relationships with men, and this caught me unaware.  I've had close to a dozen such instances in such a short period of time, I had to ask myself if God was directing me to be more communicative about my feelings, and while the jury is still out on that one, I decided it wouldn't hurt to take a hint and do it anyway.  I then pondered whether an open-access blog was the right forum to do this in, and you can see my choice.  I hope readers, especially Dads, take this as a cue to do the same for your children, and especially your daughters.  Here goes....

Dear Molly. 

  When we met I didn't know the first thing about raising you, and I hope you'll forgive me for the mistakes that I made along the way. Everyone gives you advice about parenting, and I had an excellent game plan given to me by my parents, but some lessons were lost in translation, and I adapted as best I could along the way.  My parents were loving to me but they weren't overly demonstrative of their love, and I'm afraid that I wasn't to you either.  I'd like to correct that, starting right now.  There were two things that were constants for me since the start of our relationship, my unconditional love for you, and my paternal pride of having you as my daughter.  I'd like to expound on that.

     When I fed you as an infant in front of the Today show each morning, sometimes missing your mouth due to my attention to the day's news, I loved you.  Those mornings, though habitual, have stayed with me and I clearly remembering you turning your head towards the TV when the Maxwell House or Folgers commericals came on.  It tickled me.  I loved you later, when I mis-affixed your first training wheels on your bike, and you as much wiggled your bike down the driveway, as rode it.  I was proud that you persevered in spite of having a mechanically inept father.  I can't remember if I was there the day we took you to your first Nanny/Sitter, but I do remember the many times I did drop you off and pick you up.  I was always amazed at how happy you were to experience each day with her, but just as happy when you were coming home to us.  I was proud of you the day she told the other parents that she was quitting the business, but asked us later if she could still sit for you, solely.  It spoke to your character and easy going attitude, even back then.  You repaid that choice of hers by keeping in touch with her so many years later, based on those few young years that you spent together.  I can't recall your first day of school, and maybe I wasn't there due to an early business appointment, but I loved you that day, present or not.  That might be a theme for me, I loved you, present or not. I can vividly picture you, for some reason in pink boots and a raincoat, heading off to the bus.  I remember volunteering in your class a few times, and I was proud of, not only your efforts, but of your kindness to the kids around you.  You liked to pick up strays and help them, that compassion surely comes from your mother, and I love you for it.  At that age I started to going to your extra curricular activities, and I'll honestly share my thoughts with you now about those.  I didn't care for most of the early band and choral concerts, they were loud and squeaky and sometimes disjointed, but I loved every performance of yours. I like watching a fair amount of sports, but soccer is not one of them, but when you played or practiced, I loved watching you.  You were never a great wrestler, you don't have that killer instinct in you, but I can say you were an entertaining one.  I was proud of your enthusiasm each and every time you went out and prepared, once again, to get pinned to the mat, and you came up smiling each time.  I learned something about how life should be approached, from you, during those times, and I thank you for teaching it to me.  It's a lesson that has stayed with me many, many years after the impression of your face had left those mats.  I loved you when you got your ECO class to reconsider slaughtering a pig, even though the class had raised it for that particular purpose.  I wanted the bacon, but I loved you when I didn't get it.  I was proud of you when you wanted to work a split shift at your friends farm, and I told you that you would have to bike the few miles back and forth each time.  You didn't back down, you accepted the challenge, and early each morning you rode/wobbled out of the driveway (I already apologized for that).  I loved you the day you quit your job at a restaurant after just one day.  I didn't understand you, but I loved you.  I was proud that you looked the owner in the eye and let him know that it wasn't a good fit for you and watched you offer to work as long as he needed you to. I was proud of you, years later, when you gave restaurant work a try again, and excelled at it.  I always knew that you would be good, and honestly I can't think of anything you couldn't accomplish if you set your mind to it.  I loved you when you organized a walkout of a class, because you felt the teacher had disrespected the students.  I was proud of you standing up to your beliefs, even in an environment that could arbitrarily punish you for your actions.  Doing the right thing is always worth taking the risk.  I loved you when you cheer-leaded.  To be clear, I didn't love the few full cheerleading competitions that I attended, but I loved you in them.  I'm not a basketball fan, but I was a fan of you cheering at basketball games (now Football I like, who doesn't?).  I was not of fan of you dating, but that time had to come too.  I am proud of how you left each relationship that you were involved in, and trying to stay friends with guys who weren't "The One".  Pollyannna as it was, it was you, and I loved you for it.  I love you for finding a guy now, who treats you like you deserve to be treated.  He's a keeper.  I loved you even the night we stood nose-to-nose screaming at each other, heading towards a total meltdown until your mother intervened.  I may have been upset with you, and you with me, but my love for you didn't change, even that night.   I love how you prioritized family, even keeping in touch with members that I don't have frequent contact with.  I loved that you found time to sit with your Grandmother, overnights and I wasn't surprised that you wouldn't take compensation for it. I was proud.  She loved you for that time spent too, and I suspect you don't regret missing anything else on those nights. I loved you the night you rolled the van on an icy road.  I feared for you that night, but you made me proud when you stopped on the way back to repair the faulty seat belt restraint, that ultimately saved your life.  I loved you when we searched for colleges together, and both of us learned the process along the way.  I was proud when you picked a State school, and even prouder when you stood your ground later and transferred to the school that could accept you immediately into their nursing program.  Change is difficult, but you make it look easy sometimes.  I love that throughout your college career you have found time each week to reconnect with us and let us share in your joys and disappointments.  I love you for introducing us to your great circle of friends, and letting the old folks hang with you sometimes.  I'm proud that you choose your friends wisely.  I love you for being so frugal and taking on as much of your college debt as your budget allows, and sometimes more than that.  I love you and am proud that you continue to make such great choices in all aspects of your life.

     Molly, I don't know what the future holds for us.  I hope to be around to watch you continue your growth and development, but it's not entirely my choice. So I want to bank a few of these, in case God and circumstances prevent me from being there. 

I'll love you on the day you get engaged, no matter who it is to.
I'll love you the day you get married.
I'll love you the day you get your degree, and on the day you get your next one, and so on.
I'll love you the day you start your family.
I'll love you the day your bratty kid melts down at my house.
I'll love you and support you as you become the parent. 
I'll love you as you raise your kids, and on the day they leave you too. 
I'll love you until the day you die, and I get to see you again, to tell you how much I love you.

     I hope I haven't overplayed my hand here, and this seems like I've been awfully redundant.  I guess I'll chalk it up to some things bear repeating, so I'll say it once more.  I love you, and I couldn't be more proud to be your father.





Anonymous said...

That was very good and Molly is a great Girl, as so true with Dan & Nolan. I'd like to say they all get that ALL from their mother(my sister) But, I no that wouldn't be fair, Bill..Will..Whatever it is today..lol.You have done a great job with all The Children and my sister as well, I thank you. I knew If I challenged Cha..Char...you would get in here..we would all be dissapointed if you took this week off. Thanks,have a safe trip back home.

Beeg said...

Every daughter should be blessed enough to have a letter like this. Loved it.

cdyarger said...

OMG. I cried all the way through it. Having lived through the ups and downs, knowing how Molly challenged us, and knowing how beautiful inside and out she truly is, this letter is priceless. It says it all. Well done honey! I love you too Molly!!!

Anonymous said...

I'm speechless, Dad. All I can say is thank you for the beautiful, thoughtful words, and thank you for all the happiness you've brought into my life (and taught me how to bring into my OWN life, as well). I love you so much... I don't know of a better father than you! I feel truly blessed. Thank you for loving me through all the ups and downs.

Love always,
Your little girl

Tor Constantino said...

Bill, that was a powerful post - one of favorites. She'll cherish this in years to come!

Ace said...

bill ...did you visit the doctor today... im worried about you...You raised great children because of the family values that bond us.... you got it right. char got it right...I too felt a moist feeling around my eyes...Ace

Terri Carey said...

beautiful! (just like Molly - inside and out!)

Daphne Mays said...

Absolutely my favorite post yet! No matter how many times you tell your kids that you love them and believe in them, having it on paper so they can read it when you are not near or when they need some encouragement is a legacy that every kid ought to have!

jen said...

that was very sweet, but i miss my uncle bill:)

Robin Hager said...

I would have given anything in the world if my dad had said these words to me. I grew up being pretty much ignored by him, and feeling alone. You are a true dad in every sense of the word, and God bless you for it. It does my heart so much good to know there are men like you in the world. How lucky and blessed your family is to have you.