Richard Haddad, a resident of Westminster, Maryland, is the father of five children, Steven, Jason, Ashleigh, Jonathan and Erin. Recently retired from a career managing support services in the public and private sectors, he has written on the side – articles, essays, fiction and satire – since college. He also founded – and for five years edited and published – American Man, a magazine devoted to seriously exploring the male gender role and the male experience. Rich’s previous contributions to this blog, letters to his daughter Ashleigh and his son Jonathan written on the days they were born, appeared around Thanksgiving, 2011: http://letterstomykids.org/thanksgiving-guest-columnist-richard-haddad-l
Dear Steve, Jason, Ashleigh and Jon,
I was tremendously impressed by some of the decisions you made and things you did as young adults, some of them things that I would never have had the guts to do at the same age, like Steve’s decision to quit his job a few years out of college to “find” himself on a driving tour across the U.S. and back, taking with him not much more than a sleeping bag and a back pack and some money for food.
Jason, you wouldn’t believe how many people I’ve told about your answer to my sarcastic question to you when you were a couple of years out of college and still waiting on tables at a restaurant, about whether you had decided yet what you were going to be when you grew up. “No, I haven’t,” you said to me, without batting an eye. “But I have decided that I’m not yet ready to grow up.”
Ash, I’m still reeling from your decision (but sharing it proudly with friends) a few years after getting your Bachelors degree to go heavily into debt to get a Masters in acting and music at a prestigious school overseas in order to pursue your dream of a career in the arts. And Jon, I’m just bursting with admiration for the focus and discipline and dedication involved in your pursuit of a career in firefighting from the time you were in middle school, and with the success and accolades that have followed.
I was proud that I might have helped inspire the values and priorities behind decisions and actions like those and helped each of you to develop the self-confidence behind them.
But the most important part of my experience of being your father had to do with my relationships with each of you: getting to know you as individuals and trying to help you discover and become comfortable with your personalities; genuinely liking the people you were; and loving you the way I did.
I’ve always thought that helping to raise you to be the fine individuals that you are has been the greatest accomplishment of my life, and in my opinion there is no experience more satisfying than helping children grow to adulthood. But raising you has also been an enriching experience for me. It grew the nurturing side of my personality, balanced the “protect and provide” side that I think would otherwise have dominated. It helped me to be a better supervisor at work, to develop and enjoy relationships with my staff and with other people who worked with me, to get cooperation on important work initiatives.
You’ve helped me to develop as a man, to become the person I am today, and I’m extremely grateful for that.
I love you.