You were born a week early and in the middle of the night. It was late on a Friday and mom was at a fashion show at the Pacific Design Center while I was on the set of The West Wing, a show you might watch one day with your friends and think, “Now I understand why I have to use ten words when one would do the trick.” Mom called me from her car and said she was going home—her stomach was really hurting—and I left the set to go meet at her at the house. When I got home she was lying in bed in a lot of pain. “It’s a strange pain,” she said. “It comes in a big wave and then goes away.” Mom was giving a pretty good description of a contraction.
Every light was red between our house and Cedars-Sanai, and it being 2 a.m. now with no one else on the road, I ran them all. Incredibly, Dr. Katz had just delivered another baby and was already there. “This isn’t gonna happen the way we talked about,” Dr. Katz said, “but it’s gonna happen and it’s gonna happen now.” And it did. I won’t bother trying to describe what it was like to hold you for the first time—or for that matter every time since. Words are useless at that and you’ll find out yourself one day.
The nurse taught me how to swaddle you. She made sure I understood that the blanket had to be wrapped very tightly around you to make you feel secure. My first try didn’t go so well. I crossed, folded, tucked and lifted you up, only to find that I was holding an empty blanket in my hands and a naked baby was lying on the bed. You had a look on your face that said, “Oh my God, my father’s a moron.”
Around 6 a.m. mom sent me to the house to get some things she wanted, and I used the opportunity to shower and shave. I also changed into a coat and tie. I thought it would be more confidence-inspiring for you if I looked like a dad. And that’s why you see me wearing ties so much. (I’ll tell you a secret—when I get to work I usually change into more comfortable clothes to write it in. Then I change back into dad clothes to pick you up at school and do homework. Something tells me I haven’t been fooling you.)
Back at the hospital the nurse wanted mom to get some rest and apparently I was annoying both mom and the nurse with questions like, “She’s sleeping an awful lot, is that normal?”, “Should I be concerned about her ears, they’re practically perpendicular to her head?”, “Can I grab that stethoscope a second, I just want to check one more time?” and “Do they sell stethoscopes in the lobby?”
A new father doesn’t need any extra incentive to worry but I had one. Four years earlier mom was pregnant with what should have been your older brother, Charlie. In the eighth month of the pregnancy, Charlie turned the wrong way in the womb and accidentally strangled himself on the umbilical cord and died. You and I have that in common. Grandma and Grandpa planned on having three kids—first your Aunt Debbie, then Uncle Noah and then my brother Daniel. But Daniel died at birth, and that’s why I’m here. I’m the understudy. (You might notice a lot of characters named Charlie and Danny in the stories I write—now you’ll know why.) This time around, come hell or high water, I was bringing my whole family home from the hospital.
Which I did—at 7 miles an hour with the hazard lights flashing the whole way. And now you had a name—Roxanne Sophie Sorkin. It took mom and me a long time to agree on a name. Mom accused me of only liking names from the 19th century like Millicent and Betsy, and I accused mom of only liking names of professional beach volleyball players, like Tiffany and Blair. People may think you were named after a song by Sting, but you weren’t. You were named after the heroine in a play by Edmond Rostand called Cyrano de Bergerac. Cyrano was a soldier and a poet who was in love with Roxanne, but Cyrano had a really big nose and didn’t think Roxanne could ever be interested in such a funny-looking guy, so he wrote her love letters and got a handsome soldier to pretend that he’d written them. In the final scene, Roxanne, who was incredibly brave, crosses enemy lines to bring the soldiers food and discovers that Cyrano is wounded and dying. She also discovers that he’d been the one writing the letters all along and can’t believe that he’d think she was so shallow that she’d only care about a man’s face and not his heart or his mind. It was Cyrano she’d loved all along but never knew it and now it’s too late because—spoiler—Cyrano dies right there in her arms. (There are also some really good sword fights.)
You know me well enough to know there’s probably a point to all this that I could have gotten to quicker. Most of the world’s parents would give anything to trade their worries for my worries. After all, you’re healthy. You have food to eat and clothes to wear. You live in a nice house in a beautiful neighborhood and you’re getting a first-rate education. If you want to go to college all you have to do is get in and the rest is taken care of. But the thing is, outside of Saudi Arabia I’m raising you in possibly the world’s worst place to raise a young woman. I’m raising you in Hollywood.
So take a page from Roxanne’s playbook (the other Roxanne). Be brave and know that the bravest thing you can do is be willing to not fit in. Never take pleasure in someone else failing. Dare to fail yourself. Be the one who doesn’t care as much about clothes as the person wearing them. Be kind, be compassionate and be humble. Once I saw you sit down next to a kid who was eating lunch all alone—always be that person. Once I saw you go up to a little girl who was crying on the playground and ask her what was wrong—always be that person. The girl who said, “I don’t associate with bullies”? That was you. You’ve got a giant heart and a world-class-brain-in-training and Roxy, you’ve got character.
Which doesn’t mean you’re not gonna screw up a ton. So even though you don’t need to be swaddled that tight anymore, I’m never far away.
Happy Father’s Day, Rox. (By the way, your ears turned out fine. False alarm.)
Sorkin is an award-winning playwright, screenwriter, and TV show creator. His new series, The Newsroom, returns for a second season July 14 on HBO.
“Kotatataahhhhh.” That was you coming into the living room as I start to write this letter to you. You are 14 months old now. You have mastered the word “bye” very well, saying it in the most angelic voice. You have already sabotaged two smartphones: your mom’s Samsung Galaxy, by smashing it to the ground, and my iPhone, by exposing it to your saliva. Now we have to move so many things we never thought would arouse your interest out of your reach. You are moving too fast, climbing up and down furniture, managing to take the TV remotes and make them miraculously disappear. I can’t open the fridge without you jumping inside to explore, and practicing your favorite hobby: taking things out of their places and throwing them away behind your back.
When you get into a room ydcinerbiebrvw—that was you, striking on my keyboard. You have to be involved, don’t you? Well, when you get into a room and people see you, they all say the same things: you are a ball of energy, you are a happy baby, you have such a character, you are not afraid of people, and you are very social. Right now you are a bit over a year old, and you already steal the show. You have the most amazing smile ever. You have the funniest giggle ever.
I worry about you sometimes. I don’t know what kind of world is out there waiting for you. I guess the first instinct for any father is to be overprotective when it comes to his daughter. Should I worry about you being a young female in this modern world? Should I stress over what kind of partner you will get when you grow up? Should I lose sleep over your academic and professional life?
I think about all of this—even if it seems a bit premature to do so when you haven’t even been to daycare yet. But whenever I do, I just snap out of it, and I tell myself you are going to be fine. You will face problems, take them away, and throw them behind your back. You will climb up and down obstacles and overcome them as if they are nothing. You will take your fears and smash them to the ground. People who want to harm you, will have to move away out of your way and out of your reach. Whatever hardships you will face, you will make them miraculously disappear. And you will do all of this with the most beautiful smile, the loudest laugh and endless power and energy.
I confess that I am not a very emotional person, but you, my dear Nadia, have carved a place inside my heart just for you. And it’s growing every day. I now realize that my worries are solely based on my vulnerability, not yours. You are far stronger and more confident than I will ever be. Do you agree? “Kotatatataahhhhh,” you say. It seems you really do.
P.S: Your mom is a bit jealous that your second word is “Baba” and not “Mamma.” Don’t tell her I told you, ok?
Youssef is an Egyptian TV host and comedian
Kendall and Kylie
To my two precious little girls, Kendall and Kylie:
I have learned so much about raising kids over the last 34 years. You guys are my ninth and tenth children, and my fifth and sixth girls to raise. Every girl has been totally different, both in personality and lifestyle. And that’s the thing I’ve learned to value most: be true to yourself, be your own person—and be caring to others, as well.
You should also develop a passion. I don’t care what that passion is. You just have to find something that makes you excited to wake up in the morning and start your day. That is true success. Brandon with his music, Kimberly with her business and Kourtney with her dedication to her family—these are all great examples to follow.
Another key to life is picking the right partner to share it with. I certainly have learned that is really difficult to find, because people change. Your mom and I have been together for 23 years, and our relationship has constantly changed and evolved. But we have been able to make it through those adjustments because of a deep love and caring for each other. We are still as committed as ever. Go out and find that person who makes you a better person, and vice versa.
I’m so proud of the two of you. I see you both have a caring and enthusiasm for life. But in the future, you will face obstacles. Don’t let them scare you. Fear is part of the game. Trying things outside of your comfort zone is essential, because your ability to grow as a person is directly related to the amount of insecurity you can handle. So be strong and fearless on this journey we call life.
Jenner is a gold medal-winning Olympian and star of E!’s Keeping Up with the Kardashians
Jessica and Alison
Dear Jessica and Alison,
I have been an elected official since age 23, and I’ve accomplished many things—as an assemblyman, a congressman, and a senator. But by far, the greatest accomplishment I’ve achieved is the two of you. And my most cherished title is “Dad.”
You are both strong, intellectually driven women, much like your mother. I’ll never forget seeing you, Alison, for the very first time during your mother’s sonogram. I remember your fingers, your feet. I even saw you sucking on your tiny thumb. And when I saw the little flutter of that tiny heart, well, that was one of the most profound moments of my life.
Since then you have grown into a strong-willed, motivated, but most importantly kind person. You are incredibly thoughtful and loyal to the people in your life, and naturally they are drawn to you. You are comfortable with complicated ideas and in complicated social settings. You can do anything you want.
Alison, you have also always valued your independence. I remember one summer when you were three years old. Your mother and I thought we lost you at a very crowded outdoor restaurant. We panicked and were about to call the police when we found you sitting with another family, chatting and enjoying some of their French fries. I think back on this more frequently now that you live in San Francisco. Although you are far away, I know you are living a full and exciting life (and hopefully finding some good French fries).
Jessica, you have always been funny and empathetic, with a great work ethic. Your intelligence, both deep and practical, is amazing. Mom and I couldn’t reach you after the September 11th attacks, and because you were downtown at Stuyvesant High School, we were rightfully scared. Finally, after hours of waiting, your mom called to tell me that you been separated from your class during the school’s evacuation—because you stayed behind to help an elderly teacher down nine flights of stairs. I took a deep breath and leaned back against the fridge.
You see, as a dad, sometimes I have to lean back, hoping and praying that the two of you will be okay in this sometimes-scary world. And time and again, the two of you lean forward, showing me that you’re the independent, strong women that every dad hopes he will raise.
Every day I try to improve the lives of others. Whether I’m working on immigration, education, healthcare, crime reduction or women’s rights, I’m always fighting to make sure that we, as Americans, are safe from harm and have access to the resources we need to make a good life for our families. I hope that the work I’ve done has helped you live the life you want to live. And I hope that, as a father, I have given you the tools that will enable you to reach your goals and fulfill your dreams.
I have always believed it is harder for strong women to achieve than it is for men. But that makes strong and successful women the most interesting people in the world. I have observed this in the Senate, and I have observed it with both of you as you’ve matured.
I am so very lucky to have the two of you in my life. Thank you for your limitless patience, support and love. You are the rock of my life.
Schumer is a U.S. senator from New York
Maya, Clementine and Indiana
I often wonder how your lives are different growing up as young women from what it was like for me as a young man. Is it the same? Is it radically different, or just a variation? For me, I believe much of life is the same—if we have a soul I highly doubt it is masculine or feminine.
Sometimes I worry that many women miss out on what a beautiful aspect of life sports can be. Maya, I know you couldn’t care less about anything with a ball, but I must encourage you to push yourself to know your body, and sports are the great teacher. It can be yoga or dance but you mustn’t ignore all that athletics has to offer. There are certain secrets you can only learn when you are running as fast as you can. And Clementine and Indiana—it’s not too soon to get started.
It’s hard to talk about love. I get shy and stumble around like a teenager myself. But I do want you to know that it is your life and I want you to be in charge of it. Go out and embrace all your passions. Just remember that the secret to enjoying any romance is your own self-respect. If you respect yourself, you will be amazed at the quality of the people who show up around you, and how you begin to respect others. It’s a series of dominoes that fall all by themselves. It is in that sanctuary of respect where love can flourish.
My mother raised me to be a feminist and I wonder how I can do the same for you.
The best advice she ever gave me is to never make a big decision without walking at least a mile. Also, that there is no cure for blues better than reading. Read. It makes you more intelligent. It’s that simple. We all see the universe through the tiny keyhole of our own eyes, and every book is another keyhole from which you can gaze.
And remember, no matter what happens in life, you can handle it well and be happy, or handle it poorly and be miserable. Many failures have blossomed into triumphs, and many “successes,” if not handled well, have wilted into disasters.
This Father’s Day, I want to leave you with a note that F. Scott Fitzgerald gave his 11-year-old daughter, Scottie. It’s good advice—I can do no better. But as far as I’m concerned I wouldn’t sweat “horsemanship.” Except maybe he means “sports?”
Things to worry about:
Worry about courage
Worry about cleanliness
Worry about efficiency
Worry about horsemanship
Things not to worry about:
Don’t worry about popular opinion
Don’t worry about dolls
Don’t worry about the past
Don’t worry about the future
Don’t worry about growing up
Don’t worry about anybody getting ahead of you
Don’t worry about triumph
Don’t worry about failure unless it comes through your own fault
Don’t worry about mosquitoes
Don’t worry about flies
Don’t worry about insects in general
Don’t worry about parents
Don’t worry about boys
Don’t worry about disappointments
Don’t worry about pleasures
Don’t worry about satisfactions
Things to think about:
What am I really aiming at?
With dearest love,
Hawke is an actor whose recent movies include The Purge and Before Midnight
One of the defining moments that highlighted my pride in you—not only as my only daughter but also as a dynamic professional person—was the day I watched you walk into the office of Dick Ebersol, the President of NBC Sports, and lay out your vision for how to turn a Thanksgiving Day football broadcast into an annual event that would enhance the lives of millions of people. You put the passion of your plan on his desk, right there in Rockefeller Center. It was a plan that asked for Dick and his network to dedicate millions of dollars worth of national television airtime for an unprecedented halftime entertainment project. And then Dick agreed on the spot.
At that moment, just weeks after your 29th birthday, I saw you grow right before my eyes. Your confidence sold the deal. It may have been naiveté or blind faith on your part, but I always knew you were as tough as your father—just in a much kinder and gentler way, like your mother.
Since the inaugural show in 1997, the halftime performances you conceived and produced have helped raise more than $1.6 billion for the Salvation Army, and you’ve continued to dedicate yourself to changing the lives of others through your role as the first chairwoman of the Salvation Army’s National Advisory Board in the Army’s 130-year history.
In true Charlotte fashion not only did you meet expectations; you exceeded them at every opportunity. As a young girl, our family alarm clock was your feet hitting the floor every morning. And yet you were also the last one to bed, studying late into the night. You were bold enough as a sophomore to request a transfer from a small private school to Little Rock Central High, an institution with over 2,000 students that stands as a national monument to the end of segregation. You were brave enough to run for class president. You were driven and committed enough to your education to become valedictorian, to continue your studies at Stanford, and to challenge yourself to take a job straight out of college as the chief administrative aide to one of the most controversial congressmen in Washington. That toughens you up.
A few years later when you joined the Cowboys, it was your drive to positively impact our franchise in so many ways on and beyond the field that made such a difference. You helped bring the Super Bowl, the NBA All-Star Game, and the NCAA Final Four to Cowboys Stadium. You were the first woman to represent club ownership as leader of a major professional sports league foundation when Commissioner Roger Goodell named you chairwoman of the NFL Foundation. You’ve had a profound impact on the global recognition of the Dallas Cowboys and now you are shaping yet another legacy as a leader in health and safety for youth football.
Charlotte, through it all you have maintained a kind-hearted disposition and an innovative vision for the Dallas Cowboys and our entire community. However I know all of these accomplishments are only second to your most important role as a mother to your three children. I see the way your children look at you with so much love and admiration, and more than anything I share those same sentiments with them.
A great joy in my life has been the opportunity to grow and be influenced from the experience of working closely with you. I am so proud of you, because you remind me of how wonderful it is to be a father every day of my life.
Jones is the owner and general manager of the Dallas Cowboys
Well, you’ve really gone and done it now. You’ve left us, bound for Bushwick to live with your lovely beau. You’re also well launched on your career in entertainment management. You certainly don’t need any advice from me—and so, as usual, I’ll offer some.
First, let’s review what we know about you. Without question, you’re the child who most resembles me—far more than your three laid-back brothers. This, as we know, can be a mixed blessing. You’re pretty intense, tough and stubborn. You’re also a hell of a lot better-looking than I am, which also can be a mixed blessing. You’re the best athlete in the family. You are also a hoot; when you get rolling, you can be very funny.
I think the episode in your life which best demonstrates all these qualities was your infamous 5th grade horse sculpture. The assignment was to sculpt a sitting person. You refused. You wanted to sculpt a horse. The teacher chastised you, tried to intimidate you, made you sit at a separate table from the rest of the class. You didn’t care. You sculpted a hilarious statue of a horse sitting on a stool, reading a book: “Learning to Lose the Saddle.” Even the martinet of a teacher had to admit it was a triumph.
I’ve seen you do similar things ever since, and I am not at all worried that you’ll be pushed around in the years to come. I’ve also come to understand that you take work—any work—very seriously. That’s a good thing. I have no doubt that you’ll be successful. But you should always remember that horse. There may be times that your bosses think you’ve gone off the deep end, and you should respect their judgment. But if you really believe in what you’re doing, stick with it, fight for it. There will be times when you’re wrong, but you’ll learn from them, and I know you’ll come back stronger.
One thing I’ve noticed is that, like me, you get nervous and sometimes negative, facing a new challenge. It usually evaporates once you start working. You should always remember how skeptical you were going into the job as the director’s assistant on that independent film. You worried about every negative scenario imaginable, and some that were quite unbelievable, but you ended up loving every minute of that job. So give new situations a chance before you pass judgment. Don’t be ridiculously patient—there are times when it’s just the wrong project—but do go in with an open mind.
On the home front, let me just say—and your boyfriend will think this is absolutely hilarious—don’t be afraid to fight. Your Mom and I have been battling for 34 years and it’s been extremely annoying for you—but therapeutic for us. It’s a lot better than bottling things up, although I can’t ever imagine you doing that. It’s got to be done from a basis of love; mom famously called our marriage “lovingly contentious.” If you lose the love, the fighting just isn’t worth it—and it can cause real long-term hurt and harm. So be very, very careful about letting loose.
The other thing I don’t have to tell you is: enjoy yourselves. The two of you have traveled the world together, cooked together, danced and partied and been happily quiet, puttering around the house together. Mom and I get a kick out of seeing you the two of you as a loving couple.
I know you’re proud—boy, do I know it—but you should be assured that I’ll be with you, and for you, whatever happens. Whenever you need me, I’ll be there. I’ll always be looking forward to the next iteration of the horse sculpture. And you’ll always, always be my darling girl. So don’t be a stranger.
Klein is TIME’s political columnist and author of six books, most recently Politics Lost.
Amanda and Daniella
The most important job that I have isn’t U.S. senator. It’s father. And I’m blessed to have four children, my two oldest of which are girls—Amanda, who just turned 13, and Daniella, who turns 11 this month. And it’s just been amazing to watch them both grow up.
My hope for my daughters is that they will grow up to be strong, confident women who understand that they can be whatever that want to be in life. What I’ve tried to do in my experiences is expose them to everything that I’m doing, because if that’s something they’d like to do one day, that’s great.
But whatever choice they make in life, that’s something that I’ll be there to support them on. And what’s been most amazing is to watch them grow into that role, every year that goes by. As their personalities come out, as they grow and mature, as they discover new things, as their dreams expand, the most important thing fathers can do is encourage their daughters to dream and to reach for the stars. They can be anything they want to be. There’s nothing holding them back. They can go as far as their talent and their work will take them. And God willing, I’ll be there with them each step of the way.
I thank God every day that I’m the father of four children, and I’m especially thankful to be the father of two wonderful girls that one day will grow up to be two strong, confident and wonderful women—who I hope will do much to contribute to their families, to our society, to our country, and to the world.
Rubio is a U.S. senator from Florida
One of my proudest moments as a father (so far) happened just recently: you’re not even 3 yet, and you already had your first dance recital. When the curtains opened, half the kids started crying and ran off. The other ones wandered around aimlessly and didn’t know what they were doing. But you were right there, front and center, hamming it up. I couldn’t believe it. You did your choreography, you were smiling and then you saw me in the audience. I could read your lips when you said “Daddy!” That made me melt.
Whenever you’re on stage or at gymnastics or in front of a camera, you always turn it on. I don’t know where you get that from! You’re always game even when you’re in a mood, and that strength will be important throughout your life.
More than almost anything, I hope you grow into a strong, independent woman. My goal is to raise a responsible, loving and respectful young lady who can take care of herself and doesn’t feel like she has to rely on any man. Hopefully you won’t have to learn your life lessons the hard way—the way I had to learn them—but I’ve got lots to share with you about the way people are. I don’t want you to be jaded, but it’s tough out there and you need to be a tough girl and recognize that.
But being tough doesn’t mean you have to go it alone. Like any father, I have natural fears about what you’ll encounter as a woman growing up in our world. That’s why I want you to know that you have a great support system, a father and a mother and grandparents. You’re going to make mistakes—and there are people who’ll try to take advantage or hurt you—but know that if you do the right thing, the right thing is going to happen to you. You can’t ever mess up to the point where things are going to go so awry that you won’t know what we’ll do. As long as you’re honest with me and cool with me, I’ll be understanding.
A lot of people don’t get that. It’s a priceless thing and a luxury. I want you to be comfortable with that support, to know it’s always there, but not to take it for granted. And that goes for the rest of the things you’re lucky to have. It’s so important to appreciate the value of a dollar. You’re privileged and not everyone is, so you need to help other people and lend your time to helping those less fortunate.
As exciting as your dance recital was, we have an even bigger event coming up in our family. Pretty soon, you’ll be a big sister. I’m not sure you’ll understand what we’re talking about until the baby arrives, but it will be your job to take care of your brother or sister, to look out and be protective and love them as part of the family, knowing that we still love you just as much.
And you’ll get to help me teach the baby the things I hope you learn from me: that you shouldn’t have to rely on anyone to take care of you, even though I always will. And that if you come from a place of love and you work hard, you can’t really go wrong.
P.S. You better fall in love with a guy that has his act together. No losers!
Lopez is a host of Extra and The X Factor
Emma and Georgina
Dear Emma and Georgina,
It’s almost Father’s Day and I’m writing to thank you for the gifts you’ve given me.
Not the ones you’ve wrapped over the years—though I always appreciated them, too. (Especially the fingerpaintings.) The real gift has been watching you both grow up and come into your own as adults. That’s the ultimate gift for any father.
I sometimes think of how I wish your grandfather could have seen me graduate from college and make my way in the world. I know how proud he would have been and that means a lot to me. But I also think how lucky I’ve been to be able to see you both make your way in the world, pursuing your own paths with passion, setting goals and driving yourselves to achieve them—on your own terms, in your own ways. Competitiveness and stubbornness run in the genes, I guess.
Another gift you’ve given me is the pleasure of seeing you both get involved in philanthropic activities. I can’t think of a more noble or rewarding pursuit. Giving back is something I learned from my parents—so I guess that, too, runs in the genes.
Your mother deserves all the credit for what smart and strong women you are. But I’m too impressed with you not to take some of the credit, too.
I would have told you this in person, but figured you’d roll your eyes. (Again—it’s the genes.) But I just wanted to let you know how proud I am to be your father.
Bloomberg is the mayor of New York City
Kendall and Morgan
Dear Kendall and Morgan,
You (and your Mom) are the absolute loves of my life and it’s impossible to fully express the depth of feelings and hopes I have for you. I want so much for you. There is the stuff that’s easy to say: I want you to be happy; I want you to love deeply; I want your first heartbreak to feel better as quickly as possible; I want the two of you to be best friends; I want you to be smart and ambitious; I want you to be kind; I want you to visit your Mom and me often. But there are more important and complex conversations to have.
I want you to be feminists—not in the sometimes slightly pejorative, pop-culturally defined way, but in the simple first-line definition on Wikipedia type way: “a movement and ideology aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights for women.” I know that’s the world I want for you—and if you can help lead or lean in to making it a reality, I think you and all women will be happier.
I want you to be inquisitive: not just in the traditional thirst for knowledge sense, but also about yourself. I hope you constantly ask yourself, “What would I do if I wasn’t afraid?” and that you then go do that thing. I hope you think about what big, important things might be out of your reach…and then try to reach them anyway.
I hope you fail: not all the time or overall, but certainly some of the time. Failing means you probably tried something really difficult. And I definitely want you to try really hard.
I also want you to choose the right partner. This isn’t about me being a Dad and worrying about finding someone good enough for you (although there is probably some of that). It’s more about making sure your partner allows you to be all of you. You both already have so much strength of character and will (ok, maybe too much will, especially around bed time). I always want your choices to add to or at least reflect that strength, and this is exactly the reason why your partner matters so much. Does s/he genuinely make you stronger? If the answer is yes, then walk down the aisle…as long as you are at least 27 years old and your future spouse comes to your Dad for his blessing first. (Yes, I’m still old school on some things.) By the way, despite agreeing with a great deal of Lean In, I disagree with at least one item: you absolutely do not have to date the bad boys!
Lastly, I don’t want you to want to have it all. Having it all is neither possible nor practical. So instead of all, have some. And make the some about the things you most want and love, while realizing you’ll never get all of the stuff you want. That’s not only ok, but also entirely human.
With love from one of your two biggest fans,
Buckley is the VP of global business communications at Facebook
Ilana and Leah
Ilana and Leah,
I never thought I could experience more joy than the day you arrived, but you both find ways to prove your dad wrong every day.
This year was particularly meaningful. Ilana, to see you graduate from 8th grade into high school and Leah, seeing you celebrate your Bat Mitzvah— both celebrations were more than milestones; they showed how much the two of you have matured and achieved.
I cherish the time we spend together, even during our Friday night dinners where you share with me everything I have done wrong for the week. I wouldn’t have it any other way. The way you speak up and hold strong views is part of a long Emanuel tradition that I am sure you will continue—even if you appear to be writing the same book your uncles and I wrote about your grandfather when we were your age: “How to Raise Your Father With Dignity.”
But what brings me the greatest joy is seeing each of you grow into yourselves, to watch you become something and someone that is entirely your own. Your mother and I could not be more proud of the independent, thoughtful women you are becoming.
You should know that your mother and I are always here for you with our support and love. But remember to trust your own instincts, and to follow your hearts. You are smart, fearless, independent young women, who fill your father with pride each and every day.
The time we share together is something we will always have and something I will always treasure. Every day, I try to let you know that you will always have my unconditional love. On this Father’s Day, I want you to know the unconditional joy you have given me.
Our family has a great tradition of strong, trailblazing women. You are already among them.
Emanuel is the mayor of Chicago
My Dearest Ava,
I wish you unconditional love, empowerment, sentimental memories from the past and amazing experiences.
I hope I’ve shown you the strength of our generational bloodline and how important it is that family takes care of each other. I am trying to pass down what I learned from my parents to you, the most beloved person in my life: morality, sensibility, compassion understanding, and patience. And you have them all.
The truth is, I would have gone off the rails without you, so in a way, you have become my savior. I hope I can repay you for that.
We’ve shared so many memories together, just the two of us, and each and every one of them is the best time I’ve ever had. From riding to school in the morning to our annual trips to Lake Powell, the most beautiful, spiritual place on the planet. Learning that you got your first job and watching you prepare, then head off to work. But my favorite memories are of spending time with you, hanging out and watching you grow into the amazing young lady that you’ve become. And I can’t wait to see all the things you’ll do in your future.
You are my deepest pleasure and my best worry and probably always will be. I feel everything you feel; it’s just what happens when you’re a parent. There’s no separating that in my heart.
I wish you strength in the future because it’s not always going to be easy. I hope I’ve given, and continue to give you, all the tools you’ll need to move forward and manage through life’s struggles yet still remain smiling in your heart.
And I will walk with you forever, even when I’m gone. When you love someone that deeply, they become your North Star, your home. And you can never lose your way.
There is nothing that can ever come in between us.
I love you like crazy,
Sambora is an accomplished musician and songwriter, as a solo act and in the rock group Bon Jovi
Isabel and Ines
You are now 17 and almost 15 and you are the loves of my life. Ever since I saw your little faces coming out of your mother’s body (an image that science fiction could never match for its power to mesmerize) the stunning nature of my attachment to you has been humbling. I made a solemn promise to myself to be a great dad and I have failed, but I have succeeded in being a good one. Inconsistent, grumpy, self-involved, guilt-inducing and hard of hearing perhaps, and of course plainly annoying, as you are kind enough to remind me daily—but still reasonably good, I think. In any case, here I am. Count on me for almost anything.
As if I didn’t have enough reasons to love you for yourselves, I also love that you are young women. Even despite their sadly limited roles in public life for centuries, women managed from behind the scenes to wield a unique and enduring power. Among countless other things, they have been glue and lubricant. They have kept the tribes of the species bound together and learning together and moving forward together since the days of the caves. Now you’ll get to be adults in an age of unprecedented opportunity and influence for women, and you could contribute to bettering the lot of women everywhere.
Still, you are not “woman,” you are Isabel and Ines, and so it will take time and effort and failure and success to find yourself in a culture that empowers you while still telling you who to be and how to be, how to look and what to want. Everything to do with women is scrutinized (like in this letter!) and ruled upon ruthlessly by men and women alike, and sometimes even regulated by laws. To find your own identity while having to live up to the expectations of others, while having to please and wanting to please others, while being or wanting to be the object of desire, while striving to be a good girl and a smart one and pretty and a fast runner and… wow! Only women could survive growing up in that hailstorm. Most men would be crushed by it.
There’s a cocoon for young women. It’s dark and itchy and hot and the air inside is thin and stinky. It’s spun together with your own bad hair—and with being judged unfairly and harshly by your peers, and with you judging them unfairly and harshly, with betraying besties and being betrayed by them, with competition, with feelings of worthlessness, with kissing frogs, with being ashamed of your ambition and your vanity and your confidence and your strength, with discomfort in your body—and with awkwardness, of course—and with the wrong shoes.
But guess what? Good news! A woman, fully cooked—splendid, resourceful, prodigious and wise—very often emerges from that cocoon; slowly at first, then with the force of a gale. In doing so she might surprise herself, but not me. You could be her. (I almost wrote “Be her!” but I realized I was doing it again: burdening you with the expectations of others.) If you want it—with work, with luck, with you—you can be her. When you get there, don’t forget to thank your mom.
your most embarrassing Papi
Garcia is an award-winning director and creator of HBO’s In Treatment
Jennifer, Andrea and Sarah
Dear Jennifer, Andrea and Sarah,
As I think you know, Father’s Day has never been a big deal in my life because since each of you came into this world I’ve felt privileged to be your dad. I didn’t need a Sunday set aside in June to remind me.
As I said when your children were born, “They won the lottery because they’re now part of a loving family with a long tradition of caring for one another.”
In turn, I won the lottery first by marrying your mother and then watching in awe as you grew up. You weren’t perfect, and neither was I. But together we worked through the bumps and detours with the Brokaw candor that seems to be a genetic trait.
So on this Father’s Day you’ll make me proud again if you reach out to friends or others who have lost a father through illness, misfortune or a marriage gone bad.
It would be nice if you found a military family who lost a father in these long wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. I know many of them feel, correctly, the rest of the country cares too little about what they’ve been through.
If among your friends the talk turns to dads, I have no problem if you share some of the Tom-as-selfish-angry-or-just plain-goofy Dad.
Jen, I still remember that cogent protest note you wrote me when I thought you should appear at my performance with the Boston Pops instead of enjoying the height of your school’s social season.
Or when I said to our French exchange students, “Est vous bored?”
Andrea, did I yell when you left the keys to the family car on a back tire in the Bronx and it was promptly stolen? Maybe I would have been angrier had it not been just as promptly recovered.
Sarah, we’ll always have that New Year’s eve where I encountered your boyfriend walking through our house, drinking my precious magnum of Dom Perignon straight from the bottle.
Over the years I’ve learned so much more from you than you from me. As you know, I grew up in a testosterone-fueled family of three boys with a construction foreman father, and not even my saintly mother could adequately convey the complexities of coming of age as a girl-woman.
The physical changes, the onset of menstruation, the attitude of adolescent boys, the hair, the cosmetics, the shoes (!)—and then, the greatest gift of all, pregnancy and birth.
It was an honor to watch all of you go through that and emerge with such grace and your humor still intact.
So don’t worry about me on this Father’s Day. Share all you bring to life with children or families without a father.
After all, in too many families mom also has to be a dad – and you can help fill that role.
All my love, forever,
Brokaw is an award-winning author and TV news anchor