My new book, A Father’s Letters, was published yesterday with its availability on Amazon. In a week it should be available on Kindle; and within several weeks it should be available in some bookstores. The back of the book jacket, shown below, reflects the theme of the book. That book jacket was not written by me, but it caught the tone of my central recommendations for all parents who want to improve their communication with their children.
In the book jacket there is the observation that my book offers a counter cultural approach to parenting, as I am trying to support their transition away from some of the peer pressures of today’s society. Through my letters I am trying to encourage my two daughters to forgo the focus on grades and the longer-term focus on obtaining that high paying job. Instead, I am trying to highlight the importance of friendships over paychecks and experience (and learning) over grades.
If you are going to make recommendations to your sons or daughters as they navigate the rocky terrain through college, you have to start with honesty about your own limitations and your own mistakes. I wanted to share a part of one early letter to my daughter (right below the back book jacket), as she started college because it reflects how I bared my own soul. You can’t reach their souls unless you show them yours – the good and the bad. Honesty. It’s a wonderful place to start (and improve) any relationship. I recommend it highly.
Here is the snippet from one early letter …
I hereby promise to support you, regardless of your path and regardless of how much that path may be different from my expectations for you. I also promise to support you, regardless of your success on that path. I promise to move away from my deficiencies as a father. Or were they mistakes, not just deficiencies? You do not need to send me any grades. I have pushed you too hard, with too many external rewards, for those grades in high school. Forget grades. I will love you for just being you. In Sabriel, the father says, “I have not been an ideal parent, I know…but behind this, there was always my love.” That’s how I feel tonight. I have made my mistakes. In that same Sabriel conversation, the father bemoans the distractions that have come his way, blocking parts of their relationship. I feel a certain kinship with that line. I wish I could have worked one job, not two jobs. I wish I could have had more free time at night and on the weekends, not constantly working 24-7. As a long-term planner, I have to accept some of the blame. I did not foresee my father’s dementia and its impact on my weekend time. I did not anticipate the subsequent conflicts with my mother. I did not see her, with her gaining control of my dad’s financial plan for us, holding on to every family dime. I did not see her as opposing any contribution to your education. My misconceptions, or missed assumptions of my mother, cost me a shot at a reduced workload, but much more importantly, they cost me valuable time with you during your final years of high school. For that I am sorry. More time with you would have been far more valuable than any of the additional income.
Someday, I hope I can make up for my mistakes. I hope, as I head into my older years, we can have more, not less, time together. I hope we can enjoy many more trips, establishing them as golden moments. I hope we can keep our “tide” in, never going far out. Unlike some of the individuals in our lives, I intend to keep my promises. For me, my first goal is to become a better father. My second goal is to try to create an even stronger family, one that will last for the rest of our lives. With these goals, there are underlying steps for each one of us, especially me: to break free of old ways of thinking; to focus on greater acceptance and appreciation of new opportunities; to become independent of society’s opinions and expectations, even if they were once my own; and to embrace change and risk. Better yet, to embrace the challenge of developing a new sense of self with improved self-love and self-respect. On that note, I am going to end this initial e-mail, welcoming you to college. Do what you choose, not what anyone else chooses for you—not even me. Just don’t lose the little girl in the emerging new woman. And follow my only dictum that ever made sense.
Be safe. Be good. Be you.