2023 Father’s Day Letter – Dear Caroline

Dear Caroline,

When I started writing this annual Father’s Day letter to you 10 years ago, it was kind of like me starting off as a new dad. I was super excited, I had read a lot of books about what to do and, while I was eager and excited, in reality, I was really figuring things out kind of blindly.

As I put “pen to paper” and write to you again this year, Little One, I’m so glad I have the opportunity to keep doing this and I’m so glad I get to see your smiling face every single day.

This year I want to write to you not so much about accomplishments and successes, but more about struggles and falling down. Why? Because struggling and falling down, at least as far as I think, is as much about life as doing great things and succeeding. 

Here’s an example. When you asked for inline skates for Christmas this year, truth be told, I was terrified. Roller skates have a wider base that afford more stability, Those might have been safer. And even long skateboards are easier and softer to negotiate.

But you wanted in-line skates.

You know what you want and that is fantastic. 

Coming to grips with you on inline skates was tough. As a dad, it’s hard enough watching you run and jump and flip and climb and swim and cycle and do so much more like you do every single day with my constant fear of you injuring yourself. In-line skates raised the bar of difficulty. 

Truth be told, thanks for asking for those in-line skates. I’m also really glad you asked Santa for protective gear – knee pads, elbow, pads, wrist guards and a helmet.

The very thought of you elevated on boots with four wheels under each, and only one of those being equipped with a very small stopper brake, I must admit, was kind of terrifying. (And that comes from a guy who has coasted downhill in a racing wheelchair at nearly 50 miles an hour and lived to talk about it.)

Yes, while I love watching you do all those things, I also constantly think to myself, “where is the antibiotic ointment and where are the Band-Aids?” While you were learning on them, I was learning to trust you on them. 

The first time you fell, which I knew you would, all my fears disappeared and my thinking changed. Here’s what I remember. Rolling at the top of the driveway, you slipped, landed square on your “dupa” (that’s the Polish word for “butt”), smiled and yelled out, “I’m OK” as if to convince not only everyone around you but also you, yourself, that it is OK to fall.

 A few seconds later you were back up, rolling on, just fine.

What did I do? After a short panic, I breathed a sigh of relief, watched you get back on your feet – rather your wheels – and smiled as you kept going. I was proud of you!

Looking back, I again learned that it is the little things that make the biggest impressions and the most lasting memories. Little successes. Little accomplishments. Little struggles. And falling down, too.

Here’s what I mean. Only from experiences – good and bad – can we learn about life. Only by stepping out of the everyday can we learn what it means to live a great day. And only from falling down can we learn how to get up, how to continue forward, how to fly.

Makes sense, Little One? 

I hope so.

So, for Father’s Day this year, thanks for asking for something you wanted to try and not letting me talk you out of it. Thanks for realizing that while new things might not always come easily at first, they will come. Thanks for taking those first steps – those first rolls, those first glides. And thanks for being willing to struggle and take a chance on stepping out of your comfort zone.

Thanks for getting up after you fell down.

While I’m not always very good at saying the right thing, here’s a lesson that I have learned. There will always be struggles in life, Kiddo, and there will always be easy choices, and easy ways out if you want to go that way. But when push comes to shove (like when feet transformed to wheels), especially after falling down, I hope you see that rolling ahead, moving forward, doing those things that are hard, and believing in yourself matters the most. Those choices will lead to the greatest smiles, and happiness, and confidence, and love and life.

Happy Father’s Day, Caroline! I love being your dad and I love you more every single day.