Family

A newborn's letter to mom and dad

The following is a piece I drafted originally right after my daughter, Erika, was born.  This piece was also revisited when my son Luke was born, and at other times along the way.  For some time, it has been tucked in a drawer.  I found it again when we recently moved.  My daughter is now completing her freshman year at State College High School and my son will be joining her there in a little over a year.

This piece was written jointly with my wife Cheryl.  We know we don’t have all the answers.  We really just try to do our best.  It was a discussion point for us as we tried to see the world through “the eyes of our child.”  What did our child need from us as parents?  We are glad we did the process and sincerely hope that you consider doing some version of this exercise, no matter the stage you are in as parents.  One family shared with me their written “family principles.”  Writing down your own ideas gives you a forum for value discussions that may not otherwise take place.  I hope sometime to hear you say “we are also glad we did.”

Dear Mom and Dad;

I have been lying around my crib for almost three weeks now and I am anxious to begin living life to its fullest. I am anticipating many wondrous and wonderful times through the course of my life for all of us.

You have brought me into this world and have assumed the enormous responsibility of caring for me. In addition to providing me with the basic needs, I expect you to be my mentors and to teach me how life is to be lived. This really is the essence of parenting. Please live these ideas and work together to be the parents I need you to be. Schools will help, but I need your individual care.

1. Act as if I will copy everything you do, because I probably will. You are my primary role models! Recognize that as I grow my perceptions will change, but I will still be watching.

2. Permit me and encourage me to take chances as long as they will not cause me serious harm. I know it will be tough to watch me fail at times, but you must because you truly love me. The cornerstone of self confidence is competence.

3. Show me how to respect myself and others. Show me the magic in serving my neighbors and my community; at the same time teach me also to be good to myself.

4. Help me to find true enjoyment in learning. This may be harder as I mature. Remember your excitement about learning is contagious.

5. Teach me how to care for my mind by encouraging reading and creative thought. Discourage excess television and other mind numbing activities. Help me to savor the wonder of nature and encourage me to immerse myself in it as much and in as many ways as I can.

6. Teach me how to respect and take good care of my body through good nutritional habits, exercise, and sufficient rest.

7. Teach me, by example, how to nourish and develop my soul by reflecting, praying, and constantly expanding my spirit and relationship with God.

8. Assist me in giving authority its proper respect without relinquishing my own ideals. Teach me to question and draw my own conclusions.

9. Allow and encourage me to take responsibility for my actions as I grow older. Remember that your interventions in my failures may have an adverse impact on how I really feel about myself. I need to find inner strength because you can not, and will not always be there to help

10. Teach me to passionately live and experience each day. Memories should be enjoyed and future plans made but remember today is what I am living with you.

11. Help me adopt a philosophy of perpetual growth and improvement. Remember it is critically important to be happy with who I am today, at every point in life.

12. Teach me the value of hard work. Show me that completion is important, especially when the challenge is difficult. At the same time, make sure we have time along the way to relax and do nothing in particular.

13. Show me how to separate my needs from my wants. Teach me specifics about money and enterprises so I can eventually plan for my own family.

14. As I grow, help me to learn what is needed to run and maintain a home. Teach me to drive safely, and how to maintain a car.

15. Show me that honesty is non-negotiable!

16. Display your appreciation, each day, of the wonderful life that has been given to us as a gift. Help me to approach life with laughter and zest by finding good in everything and everyone.

17. Give me the irreplaceable gift of your time so I can learn these lessons well. If you are not there to teach me, the learning is more difficult and may never take place.

18. At the same time, Mom and Dad, take time to enjoy me, yourselves, and each other. You need to keep growing too, so you can continue to assist in my growth. Your love toward, and enjoyment of each other is also a model for me.

If you forget any of the items above, here is a simple guide that will get you through: Make sure I know that you love me and that you always will, no matter what. At the same time, make sure that I know that you are in control. Don’t worry that I will think you don’t love me if you discipline me. I will not confuse love and discipline, so long as the discipline is fair, consistent, and appropriate. Remember discipline should eventually turn into self-discipline. This is our goal.

Now, I have made my expectations known. I know you won’t let me down.

With all my love,

                               Erika Grace

The local fathering effort, in cooperation with the National Center for Fathering, provides bi-weekly action ideas to stimulate conversation between fathers and parents.

For more information, or to join local conversations, contact

Mick Trombley at mick@apartmentstore.com

David Eggebeen at e5x@psu.edu

Robert Orndorff at rmo104@psu.edu

Marc McCann at 237-1719 or marc@thesecondmile.org

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