Many years ago, when my son was only a toddler, I wrote Letters to My Son, perhaps the most heartfelt book I ever created. It was a book born of hope and of fear — hope that I could somehow pass along the lessons that I had learned in the course of my life, and fear that I would not be alive to pass these lessons along. After all, I was in my 40’s when he was born, and though my fear seems almost naive and quaint these many years later, it was very real at the time. I loved being a father so much that I could not bear to think of not having the chance of guiding my son into a worthy manhood.
So I wrote what I wanted him to know, without guile and without understanding of either the world of publishing or the craft of writing. I just wrote from the heart.
Perhaps that was why the book found such a willing audience. Its high point may have been when the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, quoted it in his annual Father’s Day address.
Now it has settled into a comfortable middle age, still loved by many but found by fewer and fewer over the years. Yet is holds up well. Things written from the heart usually do.
Maybe my happiest squaring of the circle took place several years ago when my son — the very son for whom the book was written — had a chance to record it as an audio book. To hear him read the words written to him by his father those many years ago is a joy I can never describe.
What I’d like to offer you for this Father’s Day is only a short passage from the introduction. If you feel the book is worthy of greater consideration I encourage you to get either the book itself or my son, Nik’s, reading on Audible. I believe it still has value for its insight into a father’s love.
With apologies to the daughters who are left unmentioned because the book was written for a son, I pass these words along to you. They easily embrace a father’s love for a daughter, as well.
From A Father’s Wish
Until you have a son of your own, you will never know the joy beyond joy, the love beyond feeling, that resonates in the heart of a father as he looks up on his son. You will never know the sense of honor that makes a man want to be more than he is and to pass something good and hopeful into the hands of his son. And you will never know the heartbreak of the fathers who are haunted by the personal demons that keep them from being the man they want their sons to see.
You will see only the man who stands before you, or who has left your life, who exerts a power over you, for good or for ill, that will never let go.
It is a great privilege and a great burden to be that man. There is something that must be passed from father to son, or it is never passed as clearly. It is a sense of manhood, of self-worth, of responsibility to the world around us.
To all the men who labor this most important task, I lift a glass to you on this a Father’s Day. There are no roadmaps and every child is different. But if we undertake the task with an open heart and a belief that love is more important than judgment, we can rest easy in the knowledge that we have done the best we can.
My best to all of you. It’s an uncertain journey we’re all on, and I’m honored to be able to share it with you.