Dear Daughter

John McElhenney daddy-o

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Dear Daughter,

Happy 12th birthday, my sweet daughter. I hope you got my texts and voicemail.

I'm sorry I couldn't be with you on your special day, but we'll catch up on Thursday.

And while I know you won't understand this now, at some point in the future, I want you to know I'm sorry for all of the misses and all the ways I have not been able to be there for you. But I have not been away from you by choice. I did not miss your birthdays, as much as miss you overall. Out of sight, I'm guessing, is out of mind in your world, and that's as it should be. But we shouldn't be apart so much.

Today, on your birthday, I thought about you all the time. And some of the times I texted you funny “dad” texts. I tried to blow up your phone during lunch. (Yes, I know when you have lunch, every day.) I wanted the smile on your face to be from me as I celebrated this wonderful day (with) for you. I want to show up in your life as much as I can.

As I walked through your room this morning, I felt your absence. I noticed the lack of your messy pile of clothes, I noticed the clean and steam-free bathroom, I noticed the made bed. You see, I notice when you are gone. Not to be creepy or anything, but I notice you are not here every day. And I can tell sometimes, when we are together, that you too are longing for more time. So let's make the most of what we do have.

I know you are growing up. I can see it every time we're together. I am fascinated by the few stories I get in the blur of dinner, homework, and school night bedtimes. I love how your sense of humor is reflecting some of my wackiness. I love how you tell stories with excitement and a great punchline. You're a natural.

As you go on towards your teens you're going to start detaching even more from me and your mom, it's part of growing up. And even as I know it's coming, I feel like the process began 4.5 years ago, when your mom and I told you we were getting a divorce. It was one of the hardest days of my life. I kept the brave face and so did you. In that moment of shell shock you were the first to speak. “Which pets are you going to take?”

It was one of your shining moments. As you leapt from the crisis to the practical matter at hand, cats and dogs. And we could reassure you that the pets weren't going anywhere, only me. Only your dad, who wouldn't be moving back into the house.

I want everything for you. I want to be smothering and I want to be strong and stoic. I want to show you how a good man should treat you, talk to you, open doors for you. I want to keep your heart soft and open by teaching you how to listen for truth and intention. I want to protect you in every storm you will encounter, but I won't be there in person to do it.

As you pull away from both of us, your mom and me, during the next years of your wonderful life, I want to give you a piece of my love that will never fade. I want you to know how much I love you, in spite of leaving you alone. I want to give you the confidence that I will never judge or deny you. I want to be the red emergency phone that you can call without hesitation when things don't go the way you planned. I want to be your dad, the best dad I can be. Even from here, I am reaching out daily to hold you, and I know you can't feel it. But you will. Eventually you will separate from both of us and you will find the love that has been given to you, for your entire life. My steadfast love has never wavered.

Walk on, my sweet daughter. Walk on with the confidence that comes from having a solid father in your life. And even as we have fewer days and hours together, know that I am always here, just on the other side of the text or the phone call.

Always Love,

Your Dad.


About the Author

John McElhenney

John is a mad, depressed, joyous, hyper, renewed, defeated, starting over, alone, homeless, single dad and this is his rant: an about marriage, divorce, and recovery from divorce. He is also the .

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