I'm not a dad. Let me get that out of the way immediately. So, this letter might not be what you're expecting. It's not a dad-to-dad gesture. It's a son-to-dad token of gratitude.
There are a lot of fathers out there, including my own, who don't think they've done well enough and deserve to be assured otherwise. I'm writing this to say, "You are loved."
Dads who start young and trade single adulthood for parenthood, you are loved.
Dads who work multiple jobs to afford bread but rarely see your kids, you are loved.
Dads who can't afford new clothes but fill your kids new backpacks with books anyways, you are loved.
Dads who ache to provide more than Top Ramen for your kids, you are loved.
Dads who sleep two hours a night to avoid water shut-offs and eviction notices, you are loved.
Dads who struggle and fail to find time to play sports or cook meals or wear make-up or camp with your kids, you are loved.
Dads who go back to school for your GED or your college degree, you are loved.
Dads who battle addiction because of the weight of the world you lead in, you are loved.
Dads who are unemployed and aching to provide for your family, you are loved.
Dads who are racing illness to provide insurance for your family, you are loved.
Dads who live outside of your kids primary home, you are loved.
Dads who don't know how to communicate with your kids, you are loved.
Dads who work hard to take your kids to religious groups or music lessons or after school activities each week, you are loved.
Dads who can't afford to send their kids to college, you are loved.
Dads who Facetime your kids when you're too far away to say goodnight in person, you are loved.
Dads who can't give your kids all the respect they deserve but teach them to accept nothing less from others, you are loved.
Dads who are divorced or remarried, you are loved.
Dads who are single, you are loved.
Dads asking your kids for forgiveness, you are loved.
Dads battling mental illness, you are loved.
Dads overwhelmed by depression and/or anxiety, you are loved.
Dads who lose yourselves to boost the best aspects of your family, you are loved.
Dads who lose your family but mature as a person, you are loved.
I write all of this out of love for my own dad. I write it out of love for everyone else in positions similar to his. Those who recognize their short comings but work hard in spite of it all don't deserve to feel unloved as a result.
My dad is in his early 40s, in college, divorced, and unemployed. On paper, this doesn't sound to hot. But each of those descriptions bring me a whole lot of joy.
You see, my dad is in his early 40s while I'm in my early 20s. Our age difference means he gave up much of his youth to be my father.
He spent the next two decades working multiple jobs and barely breaking-even in order to support my mother, my six brothers and I.
With all of this pressure he ended up taking on college and new career pursuits when I reached high school. Then, as soon as I started to tackle college, he was hit with a divorce and unemployment.
Two of his kids were adults out of the home, three were in high school, and two in middle school. His amount of responsibility was only increasing and his resources becoming more scarce.
My memories of Dad while I was a kid are vague. His dedication to work made him scarces. But as I inch through adulthood myself, I've developed a tremendous amount of respect for what he has accomplished for my family.
My childhood memories have improved because of my new understanding of his struggles and my new memories idolize him as a hero for his current accomplishments.
His college education, his divorce, and his unemployment where a crushing blow. But they've also managed to bless him by broadening his world view, shaping his new identity, and strengthening his relationship with his kids.
My youngest brothers are getting a completely different parent than the one I grew up with. They're getting a dad who provides to the best of his abilities, but is also present and active in their lives.
At one point last year, my dad apologized for this. He was ashamed he couldn't be the same person for me. It broke my heart.
What he sees as one of his greatest shortcomings, I see as a blessing. I'm so grateful I didn't get who he is today until I reached my 20s.
Yes, my brothers get an affectionate father who is a good role model as a family provider and as a presence in the home. But I'm getting an affectionate father who is learning about the world and finding his identity at the same time as me.
We're separated by 21 years of age. He has far more worldly experience than I by sheer volume of activity. But we're traveling the same path. It's phenomenal being able to compare my own college experience and own personal growth with his.
When I was a kid, I needed a financial provider. My mom gave any other support I needed. Now as an adult, I need a mentor and a friend. He's been able to be both.
The role of 'dad' is broad and too many dads don't think they've made the cut. As a son, let me say this.
The mere fact that you're trying is more than enough to stand out to your kids. Keep trying to be better, but don't diminish what you've accomplished. You are loved.