To my son John,
On September 7, you became the father of a beautiful baby girl named Katie, and I became a granddaddy. When you said “my daughter” the other day, I thought of Steve Martin in the movie Father of the Bride when his daughter said she was getting married. Martin had flashback to an 8-year-old girl announcing that she was engaged. It doesn’t seem that long ago that you were an 8 year old, and yet here you are now, a father.
I already know that you will be a wonderful Daddy, but it’s in my nature to give advice so here are my top ten suggestions for you and Katie:
- Everything you say and do will be heard by Katie – from the compliments you give her mother to how you argue to the bad Dad jokes you tell. If you go through red lights or use your phone while driving, it really won’t matter what Katie hears from you because your actions are saying it is OK.
- There is no such thing as quality time – this is a myth invented by Baby Boomers to rationalize not spending time with their children. Sometimes Katie will just want to be around you. Nothing fancy scheduled. Just her knowing that you’re there for her.
- Love your spouse – children learn a pattern for how to treat their future mate by watching their parents. A most telling statement was when David told your mother and I that we sounded just like Nana and Grandpa. While there was no question that they loved each other, my memory is of their arguing. Say and show Anna that you love her every day. If you’re not sure why, see #1.
- Read to your child daily – as a writer, you already know this one. There is a wealth of literature which indicates that children that are read to can express themselves better and do much better in school. Don’t wait until Katie is 3 or 4; start reading to her now every night.
- Eat dinner together as a family – this is when the family discusses how their day went. So many family moments are created over the inside square of chocolate cake or quesadillas. The meal doesn’t matter; just the time together with no distractions.
- Spent time outside – some of my best memories are of bike riding with you and your brother in the area that eventually became Bedford and the Neuse Greenway Trail. We explored. We talked. We had fun. And the walks you and I took as the Greenway was being built, climbing up ladders we shouldn’t have, trying to ride bikes through areas that were flooded. And Anna losing her sandal in the mud of an area we thought we could cross … but couldn’t. Big fun.
- Say I love you daily – I grew up in a house where my father never hugged, and we never said “I love you” to each other. When the world throws its worse at Katie, she needs to know that her father loves her.
- Signs of a bad parent – Katie is going to cry. At least half of the time you won’t ever know why. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent. Babies cry; that’s the only way for Katie to communicate right now. This time is short. Enjoy it while you can, even the tears.
- Your glory days were in past – sorry to tell you this, but I’ve seen too many parents who wanted to be the teen baseball or soccer star, failed, and now they’re trying to remake their children into the image they wish they were. Don’t live thru Katie; it is unhealthy for both of you. You can tell Katie about the time you got 3 fouls in 5 minutes in basketball, though. Celebrate the small victories.
- Share your life with Katie – I failed at this one. I don’t believe that you and David ever figured out what I do each day at IBM. I go in to the office, or I work from home, or sometimes I travel to exotic places and bring home Belgian chocolates. What I did in any of those places was a mystery to the two of you. Katie needs to hear about your childhood. Your dreams. Your successes and your failures. And of course, what you do every day.
John, you will be a great father. I can see it already in the way you look at Katie. And she looks right back thinking “that’s my Daddy!”. And you are.
Love you always,