This is Tim.
When Eden was almost 3, and Kate was just a wee little 1-year-old, I often thought about how the girls and I had such a special relationship, and how it was a shame that they wouldn’t remember any of it. I mean, sure we can all have a general sense of a positive or negative childhood, but nobody really remembers details of when they’re a baby or a toddler. Some people hardly even remember older childhood – my memories are pretty hazy before about middle school, except for a couple of exceptionally emotional/intense experiences.
I also began to think that it was a shame that these adoring daughters of mine would soon become teenagers. I do remember what it’s like to be a teenager, though not as a girl, but I know your relationship with your parents tends to change dramatically over those years. It’s probably inevitable that there will be tension between parents and children during the teenage years. Parents will remember the special bond they had with their young kids; the nights they carried them to bed, out cold and all floppy, then laid them down and just sat and watched them sleeping, filled with inexplicable adoration. We’ll remember when we walked in the door after work every day and they ran full speed into our arms, shouting “Daddy!!” as if we’d been gone for days, or weeks (which I also get to experience – the greeting is pretty much the same in both cases). We’ll remember when they thought everything we did was AMAZING; when we could induce fits of laughter simply by adding the word “poo” to a joke or story; when we taught them to ride a bike and our hearts were filled to bursting with pride and delight, even as theirs were.
But they probably won’t remember much of that, which made me a bit sad… so I came up with an idea, which I want to share with you because I think it’s a good one and you might want to do it too. I call it the 10-year letters, and it’s pretty simple. On Eden’s third birthday, or within a week or two of it, I wrote her a letter telling her about where we live, who her friends are, what kind of things we like to do together, where I work/what I do/how I feel about it, a funny story or two about her and I, and what I wonder or hope or pray for her at the age of 13 (about how boys are trouble, you know). Then I sealed it up, wrote “Eden – 13” on it and filed it away. In 10 year’s time, on her 13th birthday, she’ll get her first letter. Kate will get her first letter when she turns 12.
It’ll be a snapshot of the relationship we had 10 years earlier, and by the time she turns 13 I’ll have a stash of letters for her all the way through to her 22nd birthday. All through the teenage years and into adulthood my daughters will be reminded each year about – or perhaps learn for the first time about – what we’ve been through together. I won’t remember the details I’ve written in those letters, but I’m sure they will provide some insight into how much my kids have always meant to me; something I am only beginning to grasp about my own parents now that my girls are growing up. Mom and dad, did you really feel the way about me that I feel about Eden and Kate? I find it hard to believe, and I wish I could remember it. Thanks for taking care of me.
So, fellow dads (or mums), if you like the idea: get on board! It’s easy, and I’ve found that the process of reminiscing over the previous year and writing about it by hand is beneficial in its own right. Based on a Google search, I’m not the only dad (or mum) who’s written letters to his or her kids for the future, but I just might be one of the only ones doing it as systematically as I am (systematic: how’s that for a romantic word?). Stay tuned and I’ll let you know how it all works out, starting in about 8 years 🙂