Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote you a letter on Father’s Day. Because I enjoyed doing that so much and because you felt I’ve never done anything better for you, I thought I’d turn it into an annual affair. I know I’m a little late on it this year, but it’s worth doing anyway.
Last year, I handed out all kinds of advice (to much eye-rolling when I wasn’t looking, I’m sure). This year, I wanted a little more focus.
You turned 12 a month ago; by the time I write my next letter, you’ll be a teenager. It’ll be a time of great discovery – I hope you don’t discover everything I did – and change.
A mash-up of feelings you’ve never experienced before will confuse and frustrate you. People you liked earlier – such as me – will seem infuriating. Things you enjoyed till recently will seem childish and even somebody as social as you will crave time alone.
You will discover new relationships and find old ones changing – and that’s what I want to talk about.
Relationships are complex (that must be the most self-evident thing I’ve ever said, but then you claim to already know everything I tell you). But it’s these very bonds that sustain us. They comprise the raft on which we negotiate the tides of life.
There will be times you’ll want to give up on them. Abandoning ship is easier than finding the leak and plugging it. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a chance to clamber back aboard and somehow sail to the shore.
Relationships need work. When one of you slams the door shut, the other will need to quietly open it. Again and again, if need be. One of you will need to be more mature, even if they’re younger. One of you will need to be more patient.
Relationships don’t have to end when they end. If you can walk out, you can walk back in. True love will always leave the door open. Take a few steps back, then rush right back in. As Haruki Murakami wrote, “Everything will be OK in the end. If it’s not OK, it’s not the end.”
Relationships and regret don’t mix. I read this somewhere: “When in doubt, kiss the boy/girl.” (Your dad’s telling you this, can you believe it!) You’ll regret far more the things you don’t do than the things you do.
Relationships are about being a team. I met the Dalai Lama when you were only a dot on a sonogram. During that meeting, he told me – in a different context, but it applies to relationships too – that “all too often we forget that we’re in this together”. You and your partner aren’t on opposing sides. There is no single version of reality; the perspective differs from person to person, and each of you needs to accept that. You’ll never fix things if you don’t recognise your partner’s contribution.
I’ll end with a general observation. Time is precious – and, as you grow older, the least available. You’ll never regret investing large amounts of it in a person you truly care for.
Next year, I’ll think of something less serious to talk about. After all, you’ll be a teenager and taking me seriously is the last thing you’ll do.
PS: When I told the Dalai Lama of your impending arrival, he responded with his trademark guffaw and said: “When is the new human being expected?” He then wrote in Tibetan for you: “With good wishes and prayers – Tenzin Gyatso.” That note has been preserved for you. You’ll get it when you’re older.
PPS: I love you.