Dear Tristan: Choose Wisely

Dear Tristan,

Today we come to one of the points I’ve been trying to build to in all of my letters so far. I’ve written a great deal about what I don’t want to do as a parent. Today I’d like to share some of what I do hope to do.

My highest aspiration as your dad is to equip you to make wise decisions about your life: How will you live? How will you spend your time? What will you believe – spiritually, philosophically, politically? Who will you marry? These are all big decisions that will have a profound impact on your life. I want to make sure that you’re well-equipped to make them.

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Dear Tristan: On Rewards and Punishments

Dear Tristan,

Yesterday I wrote about expectations and the insidious nature of praise. I’d like to go a bit deeper into parts of that topic today, and share my thoughts – as your mom did in one of her earlier letters – on intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

One of the things I’ve been trying to communicate to you throughout these letters is how important it is to me that you choose your own way in life – that you be empowered from a young age to decide who you want to be, and that I equip you with all the tools you need in order to become, not a compliant, submissive, obedient child, but a strong, self-aware, discerning adult.

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Dear Tristan: Do it for You

Dear Tristan,

I’ve written a lot lately about expectations and how damaging they can be. I wrote about those who expect you to follow their example, those who expect your obedience, and those who expect you to act in service of their power over you.

But there’s a flip side of expectations, and it is just as damaging.

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Dear Tristan: Be . . . just Be

Dear Tristan,

Yesterday I wrote about being a powerful person, and how I hope to help you become one. Today’s letter is a bit more about what I believe that means.

I swear, your mom and I didn’t talk very much at all about the topics we planned to write about in these letters to you, and we certainly didn’t coordinate about when we planned to write about each topic. Nevertheless, my letter for you today will have a lot of similarity with her letter.

I titled yesterday’s letter “Be Powerful,” as opposed to “do powerful things,” for a reason. I do not believe that you are the sum total of your actions. I do not believe you are defined by what you do. I wrote that obedience is overrated, because I believe deeds are overrated.

I believe you are not what you do. I believe you are. Period.

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Dear Tristan: Be Powerful

Dear Tristan,

Yesterday I told you that I think obedience, which many parents seem to see as the highest value for their children, is overrated. Today I want to share a bit more about why I believe that, and what I hope for you instead.

I believe in empowerment. I believe God created each of us with the power to make real choices that affect our relationship with Him and the way we live our lives during the time that He gives us. I believe part of my job as your dad is to empower you in much the same way.

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Dear Tristan: Not All it’s Cracked up to Be

Dear Tristan,

In yesterday’s letter, I wrote about the examples you will follow throughout your life and what I hope you are able to learn (and not learn) from them.

Today I want to write about some things I hope you are able to learn (and not learn) from them (and from me, since I very much hope I can earn a place as one of those examples speaking into your life.)

The topic I want to address is obedience. Obedience seems to be, to most of the parents I know, a paramount value they feel they must instill in their children as deeply as possible, beginning as early as possible.

Obedience is, I think, overrated.

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Dear Tristan: Be Yourself

Dear Tristan,

Yesterday I told you how important it is to me that you become someone who thinks for himself. I wanted to talk more about that in today’s letter.

Your mom and I were extremely blessed to have the parents we did. Your Grandma Carol, Grandpa Barry, Papa Fred, and Grandma Pat – whom I’m very sorry you never had the chance to know – are all incredibly special people. I’ve learned an incredible amount from all four of them, and I’m proud to say that all four of them have served as amazing examples for me in certain areas of my life.

But there’s a difference between looking to someone as an example because something in their heart speaks to something in yours, and looking to them as an example just because the general consensus is that you “should.”

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Dear Tristan: I’m Sorry

Dear Tristan,

As I sit here putting the finishing touches on this letter, I’m looking at you, sitting there looking back at me, and I’m imagining the day when you’re old enough to read them. I’m so looking forward to sharing these thoughts with you.

In today’s letter, I wanted to expand on something I talked about very briefly in yesterday’s note – namely, the fact that I will sometimes fail you.

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Dear Tristan: I Love You

Since this is his first Christmas, Heidi and I both decided to write a letter to Tristan for each day of the month from now until Christmas Day. We wanted to share what’s on our hearts for our son, and we both felt this was the most meaningful way to do it. Heidi’s first letter is here. Mine is below.

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Dear Tristan,

As Christmas draws closer, I’m so excited to get to share this special time of year with you for the first time! Already I can start to see bits and pieces of the amazing person you are, emerging slowly as you learn more and more how to communicate with your mom and me (and others) and share yourself with us.

This is the first of several Christmas letters I wanted to write to you, and in it, I want to communicate with you the most important thing I hope you can grasp and hold onto throughout your entire life.

It is this: I love you.

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