Father’s Day reflection, 2023

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.



9 thoughts on “Father’s Day reflection, 2023”

  1. Kimberly Kay Rodriguez

    Beautiful, you really show you do have a vulnerable spot,and that is where your son is concerned, when you look at your son,you see him as a man of many colors,yet we will always wonder if we could have done more, but showing him your weaknesses, along with your strengths, he will achieve success,and the fondest memories will be easy to permit.I use to wish my son was born with a owners manual,but it was a journey for us both,and a very personal journey at that! Happy Father’s Day to you!

  2. Many Blessings Kent

    You are a bright light for many of us, speaking from your heart, helping us do the same.

    Even David Cameron.

    This is a main tenet for many Native Americans you’ve wonderfully written of.

    Jesus would have us know our heart and watch for what gets in the way. (Matthew 15 : 19)

    And our true father who helps us as He helped Jesus?

    Who did He give all thanks to?

    Don’t we all come from the same father or Great Spirit, Father Sun?

    If we could all go on a vision quest as in Psalm 46 : 10

    “Be still, know that I am God.”

    Or Goddess, as it can be.

    Or Both

    (No, I never did any hallucinogens)

    Thank You for making my Father’s Day all the more special, Kent.

    But if you can help me get rid of the images I have in my brain of my kids when they were babies I once held, please do, so I can accept they have grown and have lives of their own.

    (Cf Andrea Bocelli and Bono singing about a father and son)

  3. Mary Ann Dunant

    Letters to My Son is a most special book – I have read it more than once, and given it to two friends who have sons. Thank you for writing this exceptional book.

    Mary Ann

  4. Travis Ramage

    One of my favorite books in my library. I read the book for my own self-reflection and development during graduate school. Since then I read The Spiritual Journey chapter during a Unitarian Universalist (UU) member-led service I led several years ago at a UU fellowship in Rice lake , WI and have used the Work chapter with college students and more recently with employees in a employee development program that focuses on personal, academic, and career development.

    Needless to say the book has had impact on me. I strongly recommend the book to anyone searching for a parent’s wisdom on life.

    On this Father’s Day weekend I am inspired to pick up again for another reading.

  5. Thank-you Kent. Beautifully worded. Yes, “there is something to be passed from father to son,” . . . “or it is never passed as clearly.” In my experience that passing was almost never in words, but the honorable actions were enough. Don, he was a good dad to me.

  6. Worthy words, and true. My son has been here for a few days and will be around for a few more. I’ve been thinking about our relationship all the while. This post dovetailed nicely. Thanks.

  7. Dear Kent, thank you so much for sharing your personal feelings. I feel a deep connection with you when reading your texts. For me it is amazing that you can create an atmosphere of closeness even if we never met and probably will never meet. Love from Beate – Berlin, Germany

  8. “Love is more important than judgement…”

    Perfect! Thank you for the beautiful words of insight. ❤️

  9. Kent, I too had a son around the same time, Nicholas. I felt I was meant to own this book due to feeling as your kindred spirit of raising a son by similar name and age. The book has never left my nightstand. It is a classic for all time. Thank you for writing this. It is very powerful.

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