I wrote those first letters at two and a half
Since then you have cried as much as you’ve laughed:
When you were aged three you were crushed by ennui
and throughout age four you demanded “one more”

Now you’ve turned five and you learn when you feel.
Sometimes this is silly but sometimes it’s real.
Nothing brings me as much joy as you,
Though parenting often feels villainous, too.

You’re smart so you push and you prod and you test
which can bring out my worst though I try for my best.
You don’t just ask what — now how, and now why.
We’ve brought you up curious: all questions apply.

When we bear down and fight through most of December,
that my job is “to dad” is hard to remember
because it is way more fun to be friends,
but I know that’s how kids sort out to bad ends,

And no one tells you kids get like roommates, so drunk
they refuse to hear reason and demand to get crunk
at the most inappropriate times. But it’s fine —
this family is yours as much as it’s mine.

So we have to have rules and I have to say no,
and that’s hard. But most of the time you do show
that you know that I love you and you love me too.
I’m okay, but this is harder to do

than I thought it would be — because i’m me and you’re you.

Love’s hardest work is the love that’s done right -
that you choose to do, day in and out and each night.
And to watch you become a really real person
is on-the-job training with maxed-out immersion.

As your father I’m trying to teach you the art
of living your wishes and growing your heart
and showing you ways to live in the now.
And I’m sorry but sometimes I just forget how.

I get stuck inside my own future and past:
the fearful decisions, the joys that don’t last,

It’s not different for me — we’re of the same mind —
but you’ve got to be kind to yourself to be kind
to the people you want to keep in your life —
A daughter, a father, a brother, a wife.

My goal is for you to end up beyond me:
to be better at “happy,” more at ease with “free.”

If I do my job right, you’ll love yourself so
through whatever you do and wherever you go
and those you collect will know all about
how they must also be kind, or get the fuck out.

So feel all your feelings — I’ll be here as long
as I can be and we’ll sing along to songs
that I taught you ’til you teach some to me
and you grow all the way up, happy and free.