The Knucklehead is 19. He’s away at university, and in the transition from Home Dad to Away Dad, a new routine has emerged. Every Tuesday evening (often at my local pub) I take pen in hand and write him an actual paper letter, which is snail-mailed the next morning. I love doing this. Here’s why you will, too.
The Gentleman Knucklehead presents:
8 Reasons Everyone Should Write Letters to Their Grown Knuckleheads
1. Seriously, how cool is an actual letter? Letters are retro. They’re old school. There’s a heft to them e-mails lack.
2. You get to say what you want to say, how you want to say it. If you have something important to say, a face-to-face talk can be daunting. Your Knucklehead may be impatient, bored, interruptive. When we talk about important things with our children, we feel like we’re on stage, and that’s intimidating. There may be distractions. With a letter, you’re in control of what you say. You have the time to think, to chase and discard loose ends, time to ponder.
3. Expectations are ridiculously low. See #1. It doesn’t matter what you write. You sent your kid a letter. You could write about the guy that cut you off in traffic on the way home to work. In fact, details like that are good. They help your Knucklehead get to know you better, especially now that your relationship is starting to head more into co-adult territory. Honestly, this is such an easy way to earn Good Dad Points, it’s stupid.
4. It won’t be deleted. People don’t throw out letters. Letters, much more than texts or e-mail are made to be re-read. Advice you give your Knucklehead today may not be applicable today, but letters have a funny way of being read at moments when we need them. That simple word of encouragement just might get your kid through a bad spot two, ten, or thirty years from now.
5. You, as the letter-writer, are giving yourself an hour or so of quiet time once a week. ‘Nuff said. Enjoy a beverage, or a good album if that helps you write.
6. It gives you something to do with missing your kid. I learned this one when The Knucklehead was 5. He went on vacation with his mom for two weeks, and I told him if he missed me he should draw me a picture of what he was doing, or write me a letter (I had no idea, but it sounded good). A few days later, I missed him, and decided to write him a letter, mostly to show him I was following my own advice. Sonofabitch. It worked.
7. You’re teaching your Knucklehead how to be a dad when you thought you couldn’t anymore. Though your Knucklehead is out of your reach, he or she is still able to watch you closely. Writing a letter proves to your kid that she’s in your thoughts, and you’re doing something about that. It’s a gentle and warm reminder to your child that he still has a parent out there no matter how old he’s getting. And if you do this on a weekly basis, you’re giving your Knucklehead yet another lesson in the value of a kept promise. Barring emergencies, my Knucklehead knows that when he opens his mailbox on Thursdays, a letter from Dad will be waiting.
8. You get to send the letter to your kid that you always wished your own father had sent you. Sometimes that’s words of love or encouragement. Maybe it’s the peek at the personality that The Old Man never otherwise let you see. The parent “backstage” you always wondered about. A letter like that may do as much for you as it does for your kid. And if you actually did get that letter from a parent, you know how much it would mean to him that you’re passing it forward.
Write your Knucklehead. It doesn’t matter what you say. It doesn’t even matter what your Knucklehead does with the letter. This is as much a gift you’re giving yourself as your kid. Parenthood has its trials. This is one of its rewards.