Today’s guest letter comes from Ryan Eland, father of Adeline. Ryan resides in Tempe, AZ by way of Seattle, Washington. This is his second post on The Dad Letters.
My name is Ryan Eland and I am a dad – clearly. Before that I am a husband. And before that, I am a child to a perfect dad. For a job, I do things with websites. I like board games – really, I do. I also like to drink delicious coffee and swim. Finally, I am ecstatic to be able to contribute to this great blog. I hope you enjoy my occasional thought explosions.
I am going to make you a promise – one that I won’t be able to keep perfectly. Adeline, I promise to love myself. I hope you come to understand this as one of the most difficult but greatest gifts that I can give.
Here is why.
If I love myself I will take care of myself
If I see myself as valuable and worthwhile, then I will do what is needed to care for myself. I will recognize my own needs and meet them in healthy ways. As such, I will be a functioning adult. Striving for needlessness is an insidious and subtle lie that is woven into the fabric of our culture. Reject it!
By owning and seeking to meet my own needs, I will not require you to meet them. I won’t expect you to fulfill my emotional and mental needs as a human being. I won’t manipulate you or shame you when you inevitable reach for autonomy. Instead, I will stand strong and cheer you on.
Furthermore, you will never feel you must parent your parent. Don’t ever be “strong” for me, coddle me or dance around my moods. I am not made of thin ice and I am not your responsibility.
I am my own responsibility and I promise to take care of myself.
If I love myself I will love you better
If I love myself then my love will be purer. I won’t express love to you with the goal of eliciting something in return. My love and affection will not be seasoned with manipulation and expectation. When I give you a gift it will truly be a gift – not a transaction.
I will be the strong man that you need me to be. I will absorb your inevitable anger and pain and not whip it back in your face. Your ups, downs, successes and failures will not buffet and blow me.
As a precious, vulnerable and valuable little girl, go be a giant hot mess. I will not internalize your failures as my failures. You are free to make your own mistakes and I will love you just the same.
If I love myself there will be more peace
Accepting who I am, for all my strengths and failures creates peace within.
This will inevitably spill over into our family. You will know deep security because under my surface is not an active volcano that is ready to explode but a peaceful lake by which you can curl up and take a nap.
I love myself in order to release you from the burden of emotional overcompensation. Please never carry the emotional load of our family.
Hopefully, later in life, you will seek a man who is at peace with his own humanity. You will seek a man who understands he is broken but nonetheless accepts himself for this. This is the kind of person that I want for you.
I will fail
Finally, I will fail at all of the above from time to time. I will become moody and hurt you. Despite my shortcomings, however, I promise to continue to love myself and care for myself.
I am learning who I am and learning how to love the person that I was created to be. I am imperfect and a time will come when you realize this truth. When you grow to recognize that I am not the demigod that you thought, I hope you see a dad who is profoundly at peace with his imperfection.
Adeline, you are imperfect as well. I hope and pray that you make peace with your imperfection.
Love yourself for all of who you are, the good and the bad. I do. So does the Father that we share.