Here, in honor of Thanksgiving, is a guest blog from Alan Schlecter, M.D., of NYU School of Medicine. A member of the letterstomykids.org board of advisers, he teaches a course in happiness to NYU medical students. He is also Associate Director, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Outpatient Clinic at Bellevue Hospital; and Associate Director, Education & Training, Department of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.
Dear Maisie and Marlowe,
I have so much to be thankful for this year. Your health, happiness, and laughter come first. Maisie, you are learning how to take turns. Marlowe, you are eating like a champ. I am thankful for what you have taught me. You have instilled in me a mindfulness that has expanded my meditation practice. When you struggle before I put you to sleep, I go to my breath and practice and practice and practice being with you. You have also brought me much closer to my parents and for that I am thankful.
Prior to having you two, I did not know what “parent love” meant. I love my parents and my wife and through them thought that I had some concept of what love meant. I thought of sacrifice, being there for the other person, joy, vulnerability, and growth to name a few of the qualities. In you I have learned that love is this enormous feeling in my chest. It’s realizing how much I miss you when I am away, it is the melancholy knowledge that life would no longer be worth living if the two of you were not there. My father had cancer when I was young and he has often talked of his dying as if it would be imminent (“I probably won’t live that long”). I found it (and find it) alarming (he lives on!) when he does this, it sets off some bell in my head. I do not think I am dying. I believe that if the two of you were ever taken away from me, I’m not sure there would be much point in life. It is amazing to think that Carlyn and I created two lives that are now more important than our own. A kidney (two kidneys!), a liver, my heart – I would gladly give them all to you as I know they would mean nothing to me. Only in loving you have I come to understand how much my parents love me. Even at the age of 35 I believe that my parents still love me in the way that I will always love you. In the past when I might have withdrawn from them for some small word or offense, I now think to myself how painful it will be one day when you pull away. I get over myself and work harder to honor my parents who have shown me so much love. You have taught me how to love my parents, and I am very thankful for that.