What One Letter To My Father Taught Me About Parenting

When I was 10 years old, I wrote a letter to my father. In it, I told him that I hated him, that he wasn’t much of a dad and that I was done with being his daughter.

I had a lot to say in that letter, but truthfully, I loved my father very much. After all, I was 10. But more than that, my father was everything to me.

My father, Paul Alwin Green, was tall and handsome and a rising young academic at the University of West Indies in Jamaica. He loved books and crossword puzzles and most of all, he loved to talk to me about me, especially about my future. He always wanted to know what I wanted to be when I grew up and what college I planned to attend. I think my father was the very first person in the world to talk to me about college.

I loved my dad very much, but there were times when I wondered whether he loved me. He and my mother separated when I was young and like a lot of kids, I took their separation personally. So it hit me pretty hard when my mother told me that he was getting married and hit me even harder that he didn’t tell me himself. So I became angry and mailed my letter.

A few weeks later, my mother told me she was sending me to Jamaica to spend time with him. Ugh. I remember I was at my grandmother’s house when he came to pick me up. He walked in the door and everything stopped. I didn’t know what was going happen next. Was he going to shame me, yell at me in front of everyone…what?

Then he asked me to take a walk with him outside and I thought to myself, “This. Is. It.”  We took a few steps from the house and he got down on one knee, took the letter from the pocket of his shirt, unfolded it and said, “I got your letter and can’t believe how good of a writer you are. I’m really very proud of you. Then he hugged me and said, ‘I love you.’

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A great weight had been lifted off my shoulders that night. I was so scared that my father was going to yell at me, or worse, say that he hated me right back. But he didn’t do either of the two. He just loved me instead.

That was a long time ago and I don’t know what happened to that letter. My father never brought it up again and neither did I. Three years after that, he died in car accident, but I will never forget the conversation we had and what his actions that night taught me about parenting.

Three 3 Things I Learned From My Dad That Night:

Choose to see the very best in your kids: Choose to see the very best in your kids, even when they do wrong things. Yes it’s true kids need discipline and they need structure, but they also need love. When we chose to see the best in them they’ll feel that love. They also feel more secure and more protected. 

Kids need praise: My father was very good at praising me and he even found a way to praise me that night. To this day I think I’m a good writer because my father said so. So don’t forget to give praise to your children for something tonight. Kids are listening and they need to hear it.

The power of dads: Dads are very special and research is just beginning to show how much, that kids benefit more intellectually and emotionally when they spend time with their dad, even more so than mom. Who knows why this is but dads are very special indeed. Much of who I am today is because of my dad – because of who he was, his love for me and the very special role he played in my life.

Notoya Green is an on-air parenting expert and mother of three-year-old triplets. A former law attorney, Notoya put her law career on hold to become a stay-at-home mom to care full-time for her children. She now shares her experiences at Triplets in Tribeca.