â€¦â€¦..Dear Unborn Daughter
John Kim, LMFT :
Dear Unborn Daughter
I am writing this for you. Not for anyone else. Not for likes or claps but for you to read this one day like a lost letter you found deep in a drawer, knowing you were in my thoughts before I held you. Ten weeks before you opened your eyes, I sat in my kitchen sipping hot tea and thinking about us. I thought about my own dad and what it would be like if he had written me something before I was born. And I'm willing to take that risk.
By the time you are able to read this, I will be in my fifties. That sentence alone makes me shake. Makes me want to eat better and take more vitamins. I'm scared you'll be embarrassed of me when I drop you off at school. I may have more grays than the other dads. But you have to trust me when I say it was better this way. Not just for you. For me. I wasn't ready to be your dad anytime before this year. That said, no parent is ever "ready."
I've been thinking about you a lot these days. As I rub your mom's stomach with coconut oil, I can feel your kick. And I hope that's coming from curiosity and not anger. I wonder what the shape of your nose will be. What will make you laugh and cry, and what your face will look like when you do. What foods you will like. What will be your favorite stained shirt you wear every day. If you will play drums or ride skateboards. The thought of you going through all your stages terrifies the shit out of me.
I am not going to tell you that you're precious in this letter. I don't know you yet. Just because I helped make you doesn't mean I will like you. I will love you but you have to earn my like. As I will yours. This means we're going to build something honest. And if you want to build something honest, it's going to require both of us to be honest, as well as own some shit. This is not easy as you will find out. But it will be worth it. There is no other way. You have to trust me on this. I have been in relationships that weren't honest and it's like playing Jenga on a cracked sidewalk. I don't want that to happen with us. It will crush me.
So let me be honest by saying life is going to be hard. Your heart will be broken, many times, as well as at least one bone in your body. For me, it was my wrist, inside a chubby kid's stomach when I tried to tackle him. He had the ball and I wanted to believe I mattered. You will too. Not want to tackle a chubby kid but believe that you matter. Because the world will try to prove your wrong. And no matter how much your mother and I do for you, the world is the world. We can get you in the air but you're going to have to learn how to fly on your own. There will be days you don't like yourself and days that you do. People will disappoint you. Many won't like you back. Some will be mean and you won't understand why. You will be judged. Gossiped about. And most likely have issues with your body. Unfortunately, because you're a woman there's a greater chance of that in this world. That's why we put you in sports. You will place a lot of weight on achievement. And I will remind you to not tie that to your worth. Constantly.
Let me tell you a little bit about me. I'm a weirdo. I've been known to sit under trees and think a lot. Overall, I've pretty much been a loner for most of my life. I've spent a lot of time alone in coffee shops punching keys. Half of my life for the wrong reason, the other half for the right. Or so I believe. That's the thing about life, nothing is certain. Everything is a giant guess. But you get better at guessing as you get older. You're probably going to ask me for answers. But I'll tell you right now I don't have any. I do have a lot of questions and hopefully, through those questions, I can help you come up with your own answers.
My favorite color is gray if that says anything. I'm sarcastic and enjoy my humor dry, shaken not stirred. I'm an extremist and have very low tolerance for alcohol. They called me glow worm in college because my face gets beet red after two beers. I like cars, motorcycles, eating out a lot, and burpees on a Sunday. I have weaknesses and insecurities I'm working on. I've been on an inner journey since a divorce many moons ago and still am. I care about character more than grades. And I will do everything I can to help you build one that you like and are proud of, which will minimize the pain you will feel from this world. What's important to me more than anything is that you like yourself. It's something I've struggled with.
I play a good game of chicken so don't challenge me. I'm stubborn AF. I'm an Aries. Your mom also has horns in her sign. So don't screw with us. We will always be on the same page. For you. Not us. So don't try to pull anything, knowing our weaknesses. Because you will. And your kids will too.
There will be things you don't like about me. We will have fights. You will be mad at me. I will hurt you. You will hurt me back. And some days, you may wonder who the parent is. I may have dropped you already, or left you on the roof of the car with my coffee. I'm sorry. It was never on purpose. You will slam doors. I will make you talk. And you will hate me for it, but only in the beginning. We will play tug of war a lot. I can feel it already. But at the end of the day, you are my daughter and I'm your dad and we will make it work. Not because of blood. But because we believe in good. And good means forgiveness. Good means compassion. Good means understanding. Speaking of good...
Now the good stuff.
I will make you laugh. Or die trying. With your mother's approval, I will take you on motorcycle rides when you're old enough. And for pancakes on Sunday. I will listen to you, and not pretend. I will create the safest space I can. Try not to make things about me. Not treat you like a child, unless you stay one. I will listen to your horrible music, partake in your activities, and make it to things you invite me to. I will throw the ball with you or take you shopping. Shake hands with boys you have crushes on. Or girls. I will be your friend as well as your dad. And you don't have a choice in that. I've worked with kids who had dads that weren't friends and they struggled inside. And I don't want you to struggle inside more than you have to. We will go on trips. Eat lots of food from different cultures. Do things that scare you, in a good way. Do things that make you point. We will get dirty and play in the world. Experience weather. Pet animals. See good movies. I will listen to all your ideas because if you're like me, you will have many.
I've never had lunch with my dad.
Your grandfather passed away this year. He came to America with very little money, a wife, and two kids. So he worked a lot. As did your grandmother, who hopefully is speaking to you in Korean only. We want you to be bilingual. Anyway, he wasn't home much. So we didn't get to hang out. No father and son things, like fishing or baseball games. But I'm not mad at him. He came from a different world. Grew up making his own shoes and stealing rice. Korea was very poor then. This was before K-pop. But I wish we had done more. I wish he had took more interest in my things. I wish we had adult lunches where you talk about life and how we feel in it without having to feed a meter.
It's important that you and I have these "adult" lunches, especially when you're not an adult. Because I don't want you to look back and not remember I was there. That is important to me. I guess that's why I'm writing you this letter. I want you to know that I will be there.
Not as your therapist.
As your dad.
Because we live in a world where many dads are not. And you probably know if you've read my books, I've seen the result of that in teenagers and adults who struggle with love and life and relationships, and there's a lot of pain there. The kind that makes you want to cut to feel something and love people who are not good for you. It turns life into a very slippery well and I don't want you to fall in. Like I have.
If I am ever not there, you may print this letter and use it against me.
That's the other reason why I wrote it.
So you can make me accountable.
Because I will need help.
(John Kim, LMFT, is a published writer, speaker, life coach, and a co-founder of SHFT. Known as "The Angry Therapist", he has been featured on and worked with Mindbodygreen, NPR, The Atlantic, and Airbnb).