For his first Christmas, I wrote a letter to Tristan for each day starting with the first of December, and culminating on Christmas Day. If you wish, you can read my letters to him here.
Approaching Fiona’s first Christmas, I sat down to do the same thing and realized that, at less than two months old, I didn’t know her well enough to know what I wanted to say just yet. I determined to write her letters on her second Christmas.
As with Tristan, my goal in writing these letters is to share what’s on my heart for my daughter. Feel free to read along if you wish.
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We’re approaching your second Christmas now, and I love seeing the joy in your face as you toddle over and try to play with the Christmas tree ornaments. I love the process of getting to know you as more and more of your personality starts coming through, and starting to see how your incredible mind works as you learn more and more ways of communicating what you’re thinking.
Four years ago, I wrote your brother a series of Christmas letters, and I very much wanted to do the same for you. With this first letter, I want to share with you something I want to make sure you always know. You’ve heard me say it before, and even if you don’t yet know everything that it means, I hope it’s something I never give you cause to doubt or forget.
I love you.
There is something you will learn – not now, and hopefully not soon – but someday. It’s something dark and insidious . . . something I wish you didn’t have to learn at all, because I wish it didn’t exist, but it does.
It is this: There are some challenges in this world that you will face, that your brother and I will not, simply because you are a girl. Some of them will be overt, and some will be very subtle, but together they will try very hard to convince you of one thing above all else: That you are an accessory . . . an afterthought . . . a supporting character in your own life’s story. Much of our culture has been built on teaching girls that message, subtly beginning even at an age as young as you are now.
Don’t believe them – not for one instant.
That’s easier said than done. It was hard enough for me as a boy, and later as a young man, to learn how to live for myself without feeling dependent on the wills and approvals of those around me. Given what our culture speaks into the souls of young girls, I can’t help but think it will be even harder for you.
That’s where I come in. Sadly, some fathers actively contribute to their daughters’ lack of self-worth by seeking to bend their daughters’ wills to their own. Others passively allow their daughters to grow up without overtly manipulating them, but at the same time fail to do anything to counteract the messages that confront them and convince them of their own inadequacy. Still others feel as though it’s their job to “save” their daughters from the hurtful influences around them.
I don’t want to be any of those fathers. I certainly don’t want to leave you hurt, or rudderless. But at the same time, I don’t want to be your “knight in shining armor” swooping in to “fix it” for you (whatever “it” may be). That’s just perpetuating the problem . . . making your own life situations about me and speaking one more message into your life that says “you can’t do this without me.”
I don’t want to be your “savior” . . . I want to be your cheering section, assuring you every moment of every day that whatever happens, I’m with you, always. Not fighting your battles for you, but doing whatever I can to make sure you know that you’re powerful enough to fight them yourself.
That starts right here and right now, with one very important thing I want you to know, now and forever: There is nothing you can do to make me love you more, and nothing you can do to make me love you less. My love for you will not increase when you succeed at something, or diminish when you don’t. Because my love is not dependent on anything you do. It’s not something to be rationed in cases of good behavior and withheld due to bad behavior. It’s not about behavior at all!
You don’t ever have to worry that you’re missing out on some of my love for you unless you make a certain decision or act a certain way. You already have all the love I’m capable of giving.
You don’t ever have to worry that a certain decision or action will make me stop loving you . . . or even cause me to love you just a tiny bit less. It won’t. Not ever. I just love you: Implicitly, completely, and more than I could have ever thought possible until the day I met you.
My life changed forever the instant I found out I had a daughter. There’s so much that is the same about the way I love you and your brother, and at the same time, so much that is different. I’m so glad that both of you are in my life . . . so incredibly awestruck by the fact that of all the men in the world, I’m the one who gets to be “daddy” to you.
Because I love you.