The following story was submitted by a Fatherly reader. Opinions expressed in the story do not reflect the opinions of Fatherly as a publication. The fact that we’re printing the story does, however, reflect a belief that it is an interesting and worthwhile read.
I’m not a master communicator. In fact, I tend to put my foot in my mouth more often than not, especially when I’m trying to communicate to my daughters how much I love them. Perhaps you can relate. Yet, as a father of two girls, I know that expressing my love for them is extremely important. So, I found a way to share how I feel about them but in a manner that lets me carefully formulate my thoughts: I write a letter.
Yes, I know writing letters is old-fashioned. It also takes time. But there’s something powerful about the written word. Even better, daughters of all ages love it.
I started writing to my children before they were even conceived. After they were born, I continued to write them letters on an occasional basis ⏤ each with a specific intention. They contain words of my love and sentiment, encouragement and affirmation, and sometimes I apologize for my shortcomings as a father. Regardless of what I write, the underlying message is always the same ⏤ “I love you and you matter to me.”
Some men are nervous to write. They wonder what to say. They struggle for words. They worry that they’ll sound unintelligible or inadequate. To them, I offer blunt advice ⏤ get over it. The letter isn’t about you, it’s about her. She needs to know that her father thinks the world of her, will protect her, and will be there when she needs a man in her life. Your written words can inspire her to great heights, fill a vacuum left by someone else, or mend a broken relationship. What you write to her carries significance.
Make no mistake about it, I’m not perfect by any means. I sometimes write letters in which I share my struggles as a father or ask for their forgiveness. It is both a humbling and vulnerable experience. But I want my daughters to know their father is not above seeking forgiveness, not hesitant to repair to a relationship that I’ve damaged.
Since my daughters are young, I write one page at most. I place it in an envelope or card. Sometimes I give them the letter; other times, I toss it in a shoebox so they have something to open when they’re older. They’re almost always giddy when they receive one of dad’s hand-written missives, although I’ll be the first to admit that if you’ve never written your daughter before, she might look upon it with suspicion at first. Don’t worry. In my experience, she’ll soon warm to the sentiment and grow excited to read each new scribble. In fact, you’ll find that she’s likely to keep the letters long after you’ve forgotten what you wrote in them. Just know that the kind and loving words you share are impactful and will be remembered for a lifetime.
With that in mind, here are my tips for writing a letter to your daughter:
- Focus on her, not you.
- Address the letter using her name or nickname (Dear Lily or Peanut).
- One page should be sufficient (you’re not writing a novel or trying to bore her to death).
- Think about what you want to say beforehand. Don’t ramble.
- Try to limit the amount of writing errors. If you’re writing in ink and make a mistake, place a line through the misspelled word or cover it with correction tape. No need to write the whole letter over again, unless there’s tons of spelling or grammatical mistakes.
- Remember, it’s a hand-written letter ⏤ NO TYPING.
- Use simple and easy-to-understand words (she shouldn’t need a dictionary to interpret what you wrote).
- Give the letter a theme. For example, write a letter that is designed to encourage her, or to let her know that you are proud of her.
- If you’re apologizing for something, be specific as to what you’re apologizing for and ask for forgiveness.
- Try writing her a letter once a month.
- Remember that no matter how old she is, she’s going to read that letter and more than likely keep it forever; make your words count.
- Lastly, I know that you’re busy. I know that it’s hard to sit down and put pen to paper. There are a ton of excuses that you can give, but she’s your daughter and she’s important, right? Take the time to capture your daughter’s heart.