to my children on father's day
“Every dad, if he takes time out of his busy life to reflect upon his fatherhood, can learn ways to become an even better dad.”
Fatherhood is a complex ever-changing journey. Some of us are in the beginning, some of us may be far along, and others have yet to start. It's a journey that teaches us, shapes us, and hopefully betters us as men. We asked three Rhone fathers to put together a few words to their children, words that we hope will inspire you to reflect on your own role as a father or cause you to reach out to your own father or father-figures who have inspired you.
It’s hard to express the happiness I felt the day you came into this world. I can’t wait to see you develop into the man you choose to be. I do wonder what type of world it will be when you are older. What will your generation be known for? What technological advancements will be made during your lifetime? What will the global economy look like? What will the state of the environment be?
Most of all, I wonder how I can be the best Dad for your future? Life has its ups and downs and is not always fair. The best I can do is guide you and share some of the things I’ve learned throughout my own life journey.
Respect your mom...Hug her when you come home, call her out of the blue, bring her flowers. Appreciate all she has done for you (and know she has embarrassing baby photos at her disposal if you don’t). Also, treat all women in your life the way you would treat your mom, with the love and respect they deserve.
And, respect mother nature...Don’t litter. Recycle. Use sustainable products when you can. Monitor your consumption and conserve.
Read and write often…Read fiction and non-fiction, read what others have said, thought and imagined. Write down things you learn and the experiences you have. Your memory may fade but your journal won’t.
Always pay your debts…Also, don't lend money to friends and family, instead gift what you can. It avoids conflicts later if they can't pay you back.
Make important decisions in the morning…after you’ve had time to sleep on it. You’ll be astonished how differently you may feel about something the next day. Decisions are rarely perfect. First go with the available information, next use your experience and then go with your intuition.
Travel…Especially when you are young. Embrace differences and gain new perspectives.
Your mental and physical health come first…Exercise daily. Finds positive ways to blow off steam.
Respond don't react to life…You can’t control other people’s behavior, but you can control how you react to it. If something angers you, draft a response and wait a day before responding. A lot of times, with a cooler head, you will want to approach it differently. Anger is a dangerous emotion and can make you lose control and make poor decisions.
Value quality over quantity…Invest in things that last. Same goes for relationships.
“Eat That Frog”…Your grandmother used to tell me this, to always tackle the hardest things first. Don’t put things off, as they will take up energy in your mind. Have the difficult conversation. Complete the project. Say you are sorry. Clean your room! Just get it done.
Strive for excellence but don't always expect perfection…Perfection only exists in the mind and can be a never-ending rabbit hole. It’s not real.
Have a personal creed and stay true to it…Never ever sacrifice your personal ethics for monetary gain.
Step outside your comfort zone…Make mistakes. Learn from failure. Don’t make excuses to rationalize. Take calculated risks. Try new things. Try an exotic food, sing at karaoke, stand up and make a toast, ask the girl out. In life you tend to regret the things you didn’t do more than the things you did. Some of your proudest times will be when you accomplished something you didn’t think you could.
Embrace your authentic self…It’s okay to be different or weird, it’s what makes you unique and special.
Laugh and know how to tell a good story…It's contagious, can help diffuse a situation and bring people together.
Learn to say “No”. It’s a powerful skill and quite liberating.
Give back and pay it forward…Many people will help you out during your life, make sure you do the same for others. Always take the call when someone needs your help. Also, don’t keep score. If you get something in return, great. If you don't, the satisfaction of helping is reward enough.
Pay attention in school…especially with reading, writing and math. You will use these your entire life.
Don't sweat things you have no control over…Learn to make the best out of every situation. You will appreciate life a lot more.
Give everyone a chance, even if only a short one…Don’t judge, you never know the full story. Give people the benefit of the doubt. Realize people are different and that’s what makes them interesting. Do your best to put yourself in other people’s shoes.
A dollar saved is a dollar earned…Actually, it's typically more.
Be honest…Honesty builds stronger relationships. It’s better to say “I don’t know” than posing as the expert that you’re not. Admit when you are wrong.
Value experiences and relationships over money or success…Experiences last forever and relationships are far more rewarding.
Forgive and don’t hold grudges...If not, you have two problems, the issue with the person and the weight of carrying the grudge around.
Mind your manners…Be on time. Be grateful. Say please and thank you. Hold open doors. Shake someone’s hand. Be a good host. Never come empty handed and don’t overstay your welcome.
Listen...Most conflicts are due to miscommunication and misunderstandings.
Network and meet new people…Don’t only stick in one social circle. Make friends in different circles, different generations, different industries, different locations, different backgrounds. Also, know the difference between real friends and drinking buddies.
Being superior to somebody else isn’t something to strive for…Being superior than your former self is. Be humble and don’t brag.
Don't gossip, spread rumors, talk behind someone’s back or complain…It’s not only damaging to other people’s reputation, but it will also damage yours.
Have fun…but never at the cost of your future or at the expense of others.
Honor your word...If you said you were going to do something, do it. If someone trusted you with a secret, keep your word. Trust is at the center of all good relationships.
Follow the golden rule…What goes around comes around.
Play to win, but know winning isn't everything…How you win is. Play fair. Respect your opponent. If you do lose, be gracious, learn and know there is always next time.
Work hard and play hard…Life is about balance. Always make time for family and friends.
Most of all, know I love you and will always be here for you.
Over Memorial Day weekend, I held my oldest son’s hand as we walked up a hill from our dorm room to a campus event. We were wrapping up a 3-day Father-Son camp at the campus of my alma mater. As I held his hand and regaled him with stories of what it was like to live in the dorms, I realized at eight years old he is a lot closer to being a freshman in college than I am to when I graduated. A painful sense of how quickly our children grow up (and out), and how precious the finite time we as parents share with them somewhat clouded my mood to what had otherwise been a bonding and special weekend. As we approach Father’s Day, I wanted to write a tribute letter to my children, because, to me, there has been nothing more entertaining, challenging and rewarding as being a father to 4 children.
First and foremost, each of you is growing up in a time and country that places you amongst the luckiest and most fortunate people in the history of our planet. As Warren Buffett said, being born American is winning the ovarian lottery. Not only that, you are growing up in a time when opportunities for you have never been broader in terms of education, sports and careers. I’ve made a concerted effort to instill in each of you a love for this great country and all that she has accomplished in the short time of her existence. You are beneficiaries of tremendous sacrifices wrought by great and small men and women. Be proud of your heritage and grateful for the fortune of living where and when you do.
In our home I’ve created a wall of fame, dedicated to great men and women from whom I hope each of you draw inspiration and motivation. For example, the first photo you see is of Alexander Hamilton. Everything about Alexander’s early life would suggest he would have amounted to nothing: an orphan living on an isolated island, with limited opportunity for education and advancement. However, due to an insatiable work ethic and indomitable personality, he became the father of our financial system and saved the early Republic from near bankruptcy. Learn from Alexander that hard work can overcome almost any deficiency you might have or encounter
“Men give me credit for some genius. All the genius I have lies in this; when I have a subject in hand, I study it profoundly. Day and night it is before me. My mind becomes pervaded with it. Then the effort that I have made is what people are pleased to call the fruit of genius. It is the fruit of labor and thought." -Alexander Hamilton
A few photos down you will see a diminutive, unassuming war general, Ulysses S Grant. Grant suffered multiple setbacks in his life. Just before the Civil War he had to sell firewood on a street corner to support his family after his farm failed. However, within 5 years, he was promoted to lieutenant general over 1 million Union forces, captured 3 confederate armies, pulverized Robert Lee and ended the Civil War. Not only that, but he destroyed the KKK 100 years before the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. From Grant, I hope you draw inspiration that no matter the depth of setbacks you face in school, friendships or your careers, you have within in you an amazing capacity to overcome obstacles and achieve great things.
“In every battle there comes a time when both sides consider themselves beaten, then he who continues the attack wins. " Ulysses S Grant
In particular, for my daughters, this is the best time in history to be alive, the opportunities you have did not exist fifteen years ago. Not long ago we hung the “We Can Do It” WWII poster of Rosie the Riveter under a pull-up bar… I placed the poster there because pull-ups are hard, and many (or most!) teenage girls struggle to complete a single one. But you can accomplish hard things, just like the bold women in WWII saved democracy by taking over jobs that had never been available to them. You are majestically beautiful and talented - IT IS my hope that you recognize and stretch your talents to accomplish great things in your faith, homes, communities and careers. Like Abigail Adams, you can transcend your time and the prejudices you will face.
“If we mean to have heroes, statesmen and philosophers, we should have learned women." -Abigail Adams
Lastly, you will notice the newest member of the wall, the most under-appreciated American today: Colonel Theodore Roosevelt. There is so much we can learn from Theodore that is worthy of emulation. TR single-handedly created the national parks we treasure today before environmentalism existed; Teddy combated his own political party to bring about necessary changes to help poor and underprivileged Americans; Theodore stepped outside of his cloistered, wealthy upbringing to embrace all Americans and fight corruption that held people in incorrigible poverty. Like Theodore, you should embrace the strenuous life, challenging and expanding your physical, intellectual and spiritual capacities to grow and lift others up.
“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.” -Theodore Roosevelt
Gordon Hinckley, a religious hero of mine once said: “In terms of your happiness, in terms of the MATTERS that make you proud or sad, nothing…will have so profound an effect on you as the way your children turn out.” Today, and for the past 14 years of fatherhood, each of you has brought nothing but pure, unadulterated joy into my life. There is nothing that compares to the incredibly lucky privilege I have to be called father by each of you each night and to watch you grow, develop and achieve so much. You are the dearest opportunity and challenge I have, and I love each of you to the moon.
My Dear Daughters,
As I write this, you girls are six, four, and almost three years old, respectively. You have a fourth sibling on the way, but since we don’t know the gender yet, I’ll have to rely on past experience when addressing this letter. I myself will be thirty this year. While your mother may tease me ceaselessly about how old I am, this milestone has caused me to ponder much. I have come to the realization that the things which I am most proud of in my life are my three daughters and your wonderful mother. As we all do, I myself have struggled with challenges and difficulties. But even in life’s darkest moments, you girls have always been a bright spot in my life. As my greatest treasures, I worry about the world you will soon enter. While society is currently progressing at an exponential pace, there has been much uncertainty created in the wake of this progression. I hope the following foundational truths might serve as a framework for you to understand the uncertain, ever contradictory world in which we live.
You are loved. The world we live in craves love but does not understand it. I want you girls to know that even before you were born, you were loved and desperately wanted by your father and mother who prayed and shed tears for you. This love does not come with strings attached; you do not have to fight, compete, or earn your parent’s affection. You are etched upon our hearts in a manner that cannot be removed or replaced. You define our world in a way you currently lack the ability to appreciate. Someday I hope you will have the opportunity to experience this first hand as a parent, but for now, know that your parent’s love for you does not come with strings attached. No amount of diaper blowouts (and there were a lot of them), suits needing to be dry-cleaned (yet again!) due to reeking of spit up, epic tantrums thrown in public, or standing on your father’s laptop has changed that.
You are valued. Society will attempt to define your value based off of your appearance, abilities, or possessions (or any combination of the three). As your father, I have witnessed first hand that your infinite value is not based on any of those very shallow measuring sticks. Like a machine will break down parts of a work of art into tiny pixels with their own color values, with no ability to appreciate the incredible beauty and impact of the piece of art, some people will try to pigeonhole your value into such limited definitions. These people lack the ability to understand your infinite beauty and capacity, and as such also lack the ability to truly be your friend. My dear daughters, even before you were born you were valued and wanted. When each of you was born, our family felt like it was suddenly more complete than it had been. A great lack that we hadn’t noticed in our midst was suddenly filled. Thank you, each one of you, for adding value to our family. Please continue to add value to the world, and never hide the light that is inherent in you. Always be true to this light.
You are smart. Right now two of you are in school and are loving it. And one of you is incredibly jealous of her older sisters and asks every day if she can go to school, too. Life is full of questions, and answers. Keep asking questions. Keep seeking answers. And once you find your answers, don’t let them get dusty on a shelf, but please put them to use. Knowledge only has value when it is applied, so please apply it! In your pursuit of knowledge, please remember to seek out moral principles of truth. No other generation has been so blessed with access to information, yet increasingly the study of religion, morals, and philosophy is being phased out. There is more wealth in the world than there ever has been; there is also an increase of misery. Money, nor even knowledge will make you happy by themselves. You will meet many who are rich or brilliant, yet are completely miserable with themselves. Rather, it is through living moral principles that happiness is obtained. So please, build yourself a moral foundation, live it, and be happy!
Achieve your potential. You will never be as happy as you can be unless you stop comparing yourself to others, and start competing against yourself. Rejoice in the victories of others, and mourn with them in their losses. There are many facets of this principle of achieving potential, but one I want to touch on is to not ignore that part of you that finds fulfillment in nurturing and building others. I’ve watched as you have loved dressing your dolls, playing with them, and sometimes even putting them in timeout after a stern talking to. You girls are clearly born to be mothers. While I pray that a loving husband and beautiful children are in your futures, I hope that is not where your definition of being a mother begins and ends. Your ability to bless someone else’s life as a “mother” is so much greater than that. I’ve been blessed to have been born to an amazing mother, but to have also been taught, shaped, and lifted up by many other mothers, some without children or husband. Do not wait until you have children of your own to hone your skills of nurturing and lifting others. The world will thank you for it, and your eventual children (if they come) will thank you as well.
You girls are the greatest blessings of my life. You have given me my favorite name, that of Dad. I talk about you way more than is probably socially acceptable, but I just can’t help myself. I am so grateful for your forgiving hearts as I stumble along, figuring out how to be a father. You are teaching me to be a better person. Thank you. Thank you for being mine, and being you.