Letters From Your Father

When our son Adam was three years old, my husband Barry, decided to start writing to him in a journal and then hand it to him when he turned 18 years old. That time has come.  In fact, Adam’s 18th came and went as did Christmas but the finished product is now complete and shortly to arrive from the printers. Letters From Your Father, is a beautiful testament of a father’s love for his son which makes me think of our Father in heaven and his love for each and every one of us –  “For in Jesus, my love for you is revealed.” John 17:26

As I write this blog, I am reading Letters From Your Father for the first time, although I had seen snippets of these love notes over the years on the computer.  It is a mixture of memories,  prestige moments,  and, fatherly wisdom on such topics as perseverance, compassion, faith and religion, that life isn’t fair, and following your passion. I can’t wait to see our son’s expression when he receives these letters in book form.  It is something he will treasure in years to come.

My husband wrote these letters to Adam to share a father’s thoughts, feelings and Godly lessons. He wrote them to let our son know that he was loved and being thought of every day – the process was indeed a labor of love. He wrote them to share what a father learned from life and did so with love and humor. My husband had wished his own father had done this with him, that is, shared his thoughts and feelings with him as he grew up. Sadly, he never did and passed away in the 1980’s.  Perhaps it is not so surprising. In the 1950’s, fathers were less engaged with their children and roles were more traditional.

I want to share a few themes with you because through my work as a child psychologist I know that sons crave for their fathers love – I see this every week, sometimes daily. Some boys never enjoy a close relationship with their father, because he is absent for a variety of reasons – such as due to separation, divorce, working away or incarceration.  Other fathers may be present, but uninvolved. Sons ache for their fathers. They need good role models.  Their identity as a boy and later as a man, is shaped by their relationship with their father.  The psychological effects of father absence, is well documented by research.  Although some children can also grow up healthy brought up in non- traditional families, we cannot overlook the impact of father absence for many boys.

“Being a good father doesn’t come naturally to a lot of men, perhaps me included, probably because the only way we learn is by personal experience with our own fathers.  Quality time isn’t enough, you need the quantity too.“

I remember my husband responding to Adam’s plea, “Daddy, play with me,” without hesitation – it was a decision he made early on that he would be a responsive father because life is too short and one day, our son would stop asking because he would have grown up.

“When you ask me to play with you, or just want to talk, I remind myself that you won’t be 3½ yrs  forever.”

One thing that we tried to instill in our son from an early age and later our daughter when she came along five years later, was something we came across in a survey of successful American women.  They were asked about the ‘messages’ they were given as children from their parents that may have shaped their personalities and character.  Apparently similar messages were reported by all women, which were-

  •   You are loved and special
  •   You can learn a lot of things, and, learning is fun
  •   You can take risks in life, and, it’s OK to fail
  •   You can use creative aggression
  •   You can dream big

I like to believe that we have been reasonably successful. It has been a joy to see our son grow into a young man, with big dreams.

What about Godly lessons and messages about faith and religion?  Here are a couple of quotes from Letters From Your Father for our son to consider on a daily basis:

“Seek the Lord in the Holy Mysteries, read His Scriptures, call out to Him in prayer, reverence Him through the holy icons, choose not to follow earthly wisdom but to risk obeying His commandments, our hearts can begin to warm and grow into a place for
the Lord, a habitation for the God of Jacob.” (Ps. 131:5)

“God does not work through disappointment.  He knows your needs and cares for you more than the birds he finds food for and the lilies of the field that he clothes more beautifully than Solomon’s robes, so, do not worry.” (Matthew 6:25-34).

The two most important notes to our son are at the end of Letters from Your Father:

“In the final analysis, our relationships are probably the most important things in life we have.  Relationship with our family, friends, workmates and God.”

“I wanted to let you know how proud I am to be your father – that’s it in a nutshell.”

Perhaps you may want to write letters to your own son?  It is never too late to start!

First published on The Sounding Blog of the Orthodox Christian Network.

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