Letter to my daughter 06/13/11

[To my friends: I’ve been tinkering with this post for almost two weeks. It’s the most frustrating of my letters to my daughter and makes me wish I had told my wife about my blog so she could edit it. I’m posting it so I can move on to new posts. However, I’ll probably revise this one forever. ]

Dearest Daughter,

The mistakes I’ve made in my life haunt me. Probably more than they should. But I can’t help it and I can’t forget them.

I wish I could take what I’ve learned and transfer that knowledge directly to your mind, helping you avoid the same ones. But I know you need to make your own.

Perhaps, I can help you in an unusual way.

Creative commons: Photo by Chefranden

If a butterfly flaps its wings in Hawaii, will it affect the weather in California? This is my version, by the way. And, my answer is “no, it will not. Or, there is no way to prove it.” However, if a nuclear power plant melts down in Japan, will it affect California? Yes.

So, there are obvious, major events we can measure – radiation – and events we can’t – the influence of the butterfly’s wings.

But when it comes to your life, the butterfly flapping its wings, or the small event seemingly with little impact at the time, matters a great deal.

Think of the timeline of your life, past and future. Actions or a lack of action in your life, especially early on, will change your life when you’re older – for better and worse. In my case, worse.

I think of my life now and believe it should be easier than it is. I should know more than I do. I should know how to do more things – play the guitar, solve harder math questions, identify more plants and trees, make more money, have the perfect career. I should be in a better position to take care of you and your mother.

And when I look back on my life, my situation now is a creation from simple actions I took or didn’t take when I was younger – when opportunity presented itself. I hung out with the wrong people and made the wrong choices, and never factored in the future.

Here’s the simple equation: (here and now + anything goes) – an eye on the future = the hole you’ll have to dig yourself out of for the rest of your life.

Creative Commons: Photo by shark001

This doesn’t mean you can’t have fun, or must work yourself to the bone. Have fun. Enjoy life. Just remember little events and choices have potentially big consequences later on in life. You’ll have to live with the good and bad decisions. No matter what though, don’t beat yourself up like I have. Let the bad ones go.

I’ll leave you with this. Until you know exactly what you want with your life – what makes you the happiest – open as many doors as possible, try as many far-reaching experiences as possible. Play the guitar, the piano. Learn karate. Skeet shoot. Make a quilt. Study as much math as possible. Appreciate science and nature.

Better yet, ignore everything I’ve listed and go your own way, but always love your Mother no matter what.

It’s my hope one day when you’re in a tough situation, on your own, with someone leaning on you to do something you know is probably not the best choice for you to make, this post will remind you to imagine the butterfly and the air currents its flapping wings displace. And strength will come to you from the knowledge that those currents can only travel a long way into your future if you allow them to.

Love, Daddy

15 thoughts on “Letter to my daughter 06/13/11

  1. Wow,

    I think this is one of the most beautifull letters a father ever wrote to his child.
    Maybe she will use it, maybe she won’t. But coming with age she will have an great memory in writing of your love for her.

    • JRP,

      Thank you for reading a non-black lab post. 🙂 Seriously, I do appreciate your comment. And, yes, I have an interesting take on most things. Does this mean you want your genuine blogger award back already?

      I hope Miss Stella is feeling well after her procedure today.


      • Lol…there is more to me than pups. : ) The Genuine Blogger award is yours to keep…especially with this post…so very genuine. Thanks for the hopes for Miss Stella. She is still pretty groggy and slow… not eating much. Very different from her usual self…but given time I am sure she will be running her circles joyfully. : )

  2. I feel this way for my daughter, too. I often wish I could save her the heartache I have put myself through to learn small lessons. I know that there is ultimately no substitute for time and experience, and blindly hope she has a bit more sense than I did, somehow. Beautiful, wrenching post.

    • Amy,

      I’m an idiot. I don’t know why I forgot you had a daughter. My apologies. I know I knew it at one point, but have been focused on your recent posts and tweets about Jackson. The part I didn’t put in the letter was that I was on my own by 18 with no parental guidance at all. I guess I could use that as an excuse if I believed in them. At least she will have her mom, but when you’re in your teens, you’re not always hanging with your parents when hard choices need to be made.

      The good news is she’s much smarter than I.

      Thanks for your kind words.


  3. Love it. One day I am going to steal your idea and start letters to my own two…..one day. As I have said many times, your California girls are two lucky ladies. much love~j

    • Juli,

      Steal away, as I’m sure I was not the first to write a letter to a daughter. And, BTW, you don’t need to write any letters because you’ll be around to tell the girls all the stuff you need to tell them. But I’m sure some record for them would be nice. You have many posts I believe they’ll enjoy and appreciate.

      Best to you and the girls and much CA love,


  4. UC,
    I have managed not to cry in like 5 whole days (or something like that) and here you go, managing to make the tears wet my cheek. As always, your letters to unknown daughter are my favorite.

    Best line: “Better yet, ignore everything I’ve listed and go your own way, but always love your Mother no matter what.”
    I think that’s what made the tears come.

    She will do well and make all sorts of choices over her lifetime, but she will always always know the depth of a parent’s love, and UC, that is a wonderful gift.

    Hugs and love,

    • Liz,

      I am bummed I broke your streak of 5 days. I hope that means you had five good days and Chris was doing well. Thank you for your kind words, as always. I do appreciate them very much.

      She better love her mother forever. Her mother has a pure heart. Mine, not so much.

      Start the streak over and I’ll do my best not to break it again.

      Best wishes to you and Chris,


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