The Greatest Gift You Can Give Your Dad This Father's Day

It's that time of year again — time to shop for a Father's Day card. In most stores you'll find the usual sad array of golf jokes, images of neckties, and cheesy poetry, along with a slew of cards proclaiming BEST DAD EVER! over images of prize ribbons. Isn't there a less embarrassing way to tell your dad you love him and you appreciate everything he's done for you?

How about writing him a letter?

Most of us have aren't in the habit of letter-writing these days, but a personal letter from you will mean more to your father than any store-bought card or gift.

But what exactly do you say?

Start by exploring some memories of your father. What little (or big) things did he do that have meant a lot over the years? Do you have happy memories of spending time with him? What did he teach you that you especially value now? What activities did you enjoy together?

These don't have to be life-changing events. Everyday things like listening to music or doing chores can mean a lot. Was there a time he comforted you when you were upset? A piece of advice that has turned out to be important? A time he made a sacrifice for you?

Your most cherished memories might be things your father doesn't even know you remember. Sharing those with him will mean the world to him. If you let your dad know the difference he's made in your life, your letter can be something that he'll want to keep forever.

Still not sure how to get started? These tips can help:

DO

  • Take your time.
  • Start early and give yourself a chance really to reflect and decide what you want to say.

  • Be specific. Telling him that he's "amazing" is great; reminding him how thrilled you were with the treehouse he built for you is even greater.
  • Write in your own everyday voice; don't feel you need to use poetic language.
  • Say thank you. Even if you're not a parent now, as an adult you can understand how hard he worked to keep you safe and happy and to give you the opportunities you've had. You can never thank a father enough, but at least you can start.

DON'T

  • Don't worry that you're "not a good writer." You're as good as you need to be!
  • Don't try to imitate the style of a greeting card. Write in your own natural voice.
  • Don't air any grievances in this letter. Father's Day isn't the right occasion to hash out any problems you and your dad might have.
  • Don't put it in an e-mail. Invest in a card or some quality writing paper, and write it out by hand.

Your father is probably going to save this letter, so make it a physical rather than a digital object. Don't be shy about writing your father a real, personal letter this Father's Day. Your dad might not talk a lot about his feelings, but he loves everything you do. Receiving a thoughtful letter from you just might make this his best Father's Day ever.

© 2014 Laura Brown, author of How to Write Anything: A Complete Guide; reprinted with permission.

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