Santa’s Letter Will Have to Wait

I hate it when I lose my cool and flip out on my family. This seems to happen more so with my son. I experienced the same with my father. You have to love multigenerational behaviors. Instead of plowing through it or forgetting about it, I chose to do something about it and now will share it with you.

Dearest Elliot,

First, I love you more than you will ever know. I think you may understand the day you have your newborn child handed to you. That was when I understood how much my father loves me. Sure, there were times that he struggled with connection or with yelling after I made a mistake. Yet, he always loved me. I did not understand this until the nurse handed you to me. I wish I had because I went through so much pain and confusion coupled with self-doubt and angry rebellion in my younger years. Sometimes I still go through this.  Such wasted time. This is why I am writing to you.

My parents used to tell me my dad was harder on me than my brothers because my dad and I were so alike. We even looked alike. I was so confused by their responses. I used to think there was something wrong with me. In all reality, my dad is a worrier. I, unfortunately for you, also ended up this way, albeit much better than my father. I have worked on this and try to be conscious of it every day.

Back to you. I am writing to let you know that I try to stay focused on guiding and teaching you while also leaving room to learn from you. Your uncle Brett once said he likes to listen to children because they sometimes come up with better solutions of which we never would have thought. I am quite happy to say you surprise me frequently in this exact fashion. Please continue to do so.

I have to say I am sorry for the times that I overreact. Sometimes I am upset about things that have nothing to do with you. I am upset with stress from work, money, mess in the house, something broke, someone was mean to you or your sister, I am concerned about your mother, someone I love is sick…the list goes on and on. The reality is that none of this is your fault. Don’t get me wrong, you will be in trouble if you whack your sister or choose not to study for a test. I mean that you are not responsible for my emotions and behaviors. Only I can be responsible for these. Only I can choose how to react to anything. I am sorry because in the past I let my emotions cloud my vision of what was really happening. When you are older I will explain how my amygdala in the brain was triggered and tricked into believing there was danger when no danger actually existed. I have learned to be more mindful of this.

I will definitely make mistakes again, which is why I will not let you down by making a promise I cannot keep. I promise to try to be mindful of my behaviors. I promise to be focused on the greatness that exists in you. I promise to support your gifts of laughter and play and your brilliance in how you see and value life. I will try to make memories instead of focusing on making money – there is a balance needed, always remember that. I promise to take care of myself so that I bring the best version of me to you in this limited time that we live together. I promise to love you and the family no matter what we face, including all of the silly and serious mistakes you will make (hopefully more silly than serious). I thank you for sharing your amazing self with me every day. I love you dearly, forever.

With all of my love,

I wrote this to my son, as well as other letters of the like. I did this once after feeling guilty about my poor behaviors when I overreacted. One evening I was walking by Elliot’s bedroom and saw him reading my letter. When he was done, he placed it in a drawer in the night stand next to his bed.

The next day I looked in the drawer and found all of the little notes I had given to him. We have great influence over our children. Our words and actions can build or damage their futures. I encourage you to take some time to write to your children, regardless of their age, to share your thoughts and feelings of appreciation and influence they have had on you and your life path. You can take time to apologize WITHOUT making excuses for bad behaviors – own it! That is what an apology is. We don’t say, “I’m sorry for doing that but if you would have just…” That is not an apology.

Share what you love and tell them how you want more connection. For those of you without children, no worries! Realize you can do this with your family, partner, or even friends. The freedom and connection you can make through this process is priceless. It may be the best present they receive this holiday season!