Dear Fiona: Do . . . just do

Dear Fiona,

When I wrote my series of letters to Tristan a few years ago, I titled one of them “Be . . . just be.”

My point to him then was the same as the point I’ve repeatedly tried to make clear to you throughout these letters: You are – both of you – loved, and valued, not for what you do, but for who you are.

Nevertheless, this is one of those areas in which our culture, sadly, treats boys and girls very, very differently. So despite wanting exactly the same things for you both, my message to you is a bit different.

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Dear Fiona: No Shame

Dear Fiona,

In my last letter I talked about treasuring the now and empathizing with your past selves in order to avoid letting regret and overwhelm you and take away from who you are.

That notion of regret and its impact on how we look at our past selves is a small piece of one of the most powerful motivating forces known to humanity. It’s a force I hope you never have to face . . . and yet, one which I know you will at some point: It’s shame.

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Dear Fiona: Times and Places

Dear Fiona,

In my last letter I wrote about some of the difficulties regarding this particular time of life, and how I haven’t done as well as I’d like in dealing with them.

In those moments, sometimes I have to just sit and remind myself that this is one season of life. It had a beginning, and it will have an ending . . . and when that ending comes, there are things I will miss (like rocking you to sleep), and things I won’t (like waking up at 3am).

And that’s what I’d like to share about today.

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Dear Fiona: I’m Sorry

Dear Fiona,

I wrote in my last letter about what it means to me that you’re my daughter, and my hopes and intentions for our relationship as we both continue to grow and mature throughout our lives.

I also wrote that, sometimes, I will fail to live up to my hopes for what it means to be your dad.

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Dear Fiona: On Being a Sister

Dear Fiona,

I’ve written a lot in my last several letters about love. In my most recent letter, I wrote about learning to love yourself.

In the next couple of letters, I’d like to share some thoughts about the people who love you the very most in the world, starting with your big brother, Tristan.

We’ve had a lot of conversations with Tristan, starting before you were born, about what it means to be a big brother. In this letter I’d like to share a few thoughts about what it means to be a little sister.

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Dear Fiona: Love People

Dear Fiona,

My last two letters have been about a love of knowledge: How to love learning things, and how to love the things you haven’t yet learned.

But there is more to life than knowledge. Today I want to share about loving something even more important than learning . . . more important than all the knowledge in all the books in all the world.

I want to talk about loving people.

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Dear Fiona: Love Learning

Dear Fiona,

There is almost nothing you can do to melt my heart more quickly than when you toddle over to your shelf, grab one of your books, bring it over and hand it to me, and then reach out for me to hoist you up into my lap.

I love it. And I love how much you love it. And I hope you never stop.

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Dear Fiona: Let’s Talk

Dear Fiona,

In yesterday’s letter, I mentioned the important concept of empathy, a concept that has been life-changing for me. Today I’d like to go a bit deeper into the practical side of empathy, with another concept that has been vital to the relationships in my life: communication.

I love that I’m writing these letters to you just as you’re beginning to learn how to communicate. As of right now, your favorite methods of communicating are waving hello and goodbye, pointing at anything and everything while saying “Dat!” (what’s that?”), and dropping food on the floor from your high chair to indicate “ok, I’m done now.”

It has become cliché to note that relationships depend on good communication. The cliché has merit to it, but few seem to think through what that means to actually implement. Of course it’s important to talk through things with those you care about, but there are more and less effective ways of doing so.

That’s where empathy comes in.

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