An Open Letter to My Daughter Emily
Earlier today, my daughter Emily e-mailed me a copy of an assignment she did for school. The assignment was to write a paper about looking through their lives and assign a song that best describes certain parts of their life. I was very surprised at what she wrote and extremely touched. I think we fail to give our children the credit they deserve for their understanding of us as parents - I learned a lot about my little girl in that essay and decided to respond in the form of an open letter that follows below.
I just finished reading the entire paper and I had to let you know how proud I am of you for writing this. I have never read anything so honest and so personal in my life and I know what it must have taken for you to write this. As for the first part, which deals with your mom and I getting divorced, I can only say how sorry I am to have helped create so much pain for you. Parents never want to hurt their children, but sometimes there are things that have to be done, in spite of the hurt it will cause, to make things right. I know you were only five when your mom and I divorced and there was no way you could have possibly been expected to understand what was going on the day I left the house to start my life over again on my own. I was devastated the day I left and can still hear your screams in my head and I will never forget them as much as I wish I could. I am so sorry baby, not because your mom and I were going our separate ways, but because of the pain it caused you and I know how long it took you to be able to live with it, even though I know you still feel the pain of that day.
In the second part of your essay, you talked about watching my struggles in my next marriage and how difficult that was for you to watch. I actually learned something here for the first time when you talked about how getting a little older, helped you to see things in a much different light. You mentioned feeling so empowered because I told you how nice it was able to talk with you so honestly because you were 13 and could see the reality of what was happening there. You were the only person I could or even wanted to talk to about those things and you were always there. Until my dying day, you will never understand how much that meant to me and how much you helped me get through all of that. I had no idea that you had so much insight, because I was trying so hard to keep you from suffering another defeat, I couldn’t see that you were keenly aware of how much I was suffering…I never knew that until now. Please know how grateful I am for the way you were there for me.
I know the point of the essay assignment was to look at your life and choose songs that best described those parts of your life. As I have told you countless times, the song that best describes my life from the day I left to now is Zac Brown’s ‘Highway 20 Ride’ because of how our lives became every other weekend and summer vacations. I gladly made that long drive every other Friday to pick you up and my heart broke when I made that same drive back every other Sunday to take you home. I had no idea until recently how much that song means to you and that you think of it every time our visits together are over. That’s why when Lisa and I got married, I asked you to dance with me to that song at the wedding. The one line in the song that defines my life now and moving forward is, as you pointed out in your essay, “So when you drive and the years go flying by, I hope you smile if I cross your mind. It was the pleasure of my life and I cherished every time because my whole world, it begins and ends with you."
Emily, you were, are and always will be the pleasure of my life as will your brothers and sisters. Thank you for sending me a copy of your essay. It reminds me what an incredible young woman you have become and it was my honor to be a part of that process. I love you Boop-A-Doop.