This blog post was written in support of the comparethemarket.com Letters of Life campaign - a campaign which aims to encourage parents to think about what key pieces of guidance or life learnings they would like to pass onto their children, so that they will always have a piece of their parent's advice with them come what may. Please click here to find letters from others and advice on how to create your own Letter of Life.
Firstly, sorry about dying.
Bit of a bummer I know, but as I've told you in the past, death is part of life, and that for something to be alive it also has to die one day. So don't dwell on the death part, think about my life - and how happy you made me. Being your dad - and being at home with you for pretty much the first 5 years of your life - made me the happiest I think it's possible for a person to be.
If there was one message I wanted you to learn in that time, it was this - never, ever let anyone tell you that you can't do something, be something, or like something because you're a girl.
You will probably always remember I had a bit of a bias towards all things Star Wars and superheroes. Sorry about that. It's stuff I loved since I was a kid and wanted to share with you - and it never occurred to me that I shouldn't do that because you're a girl.
My goal was always to enable these geeky things to get a fair go in your affections against the almighty Princess Industrial Complex. If it wasn't for me, you would have been getting the message from everywhere - shops, peers, media - that all girls like princesses, all boys like Star Wars and superheroes. I wanted to make sure you knew that wasn't true, that being either a boy or girl does not define what you like.
As you know, I loathe princesses - not because it's considered (stereotypically) 'girly' but because the whole concept sends damaging messages to girls: You must be beautiful, wear pretty clothes, so you can attract and marry a prince who will enable you to live happily ever after.
There's nothing wrong with wanting to live your life with the partner of your dreams. I mean, that's what I did with your mother. But there are many other things to define your life by than the mate you attract and end up with. That's the message of princess culture, and it is limiting girls' aspirations.
To be honest, I never expected your interest in geeky stuff to last this long - but so far you have remained engaged in it all. I've seen how much you continue to love these geeky stories and characters, and how they have helped to empower you. I will never forget the huge grin and massive cuddle you gave me as we watched the Wonder Woman movie at the cinema together.
I also got the Princess Leia and Wonder Woman (also a princess) outfits for you to wear to any princess parties you get invited to. But I did show you Disney Princess movies, and we talked about them afterwards. I never told you what to think, but I told you what I thought and encouraged honest conversation from you.
Anyway, read Cinderella At My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein. That will explain things a lot better.
To be fair to Disney, since that book was written, they've been getting better. Frozen is a good movie which undermines the stereotypes pretty effectively. And Moana is a great movie. If they keep making Princess movies like that, I'm probably cool with Disney Princesses - and I reckon lots of boys will be too. And what Disney has done with Star Wars in terms of female characters and reaching out to girls has been great.
I appreciate it may get more difficult to like all these things when the other girls don't, but I have also seen how you have taught and inspired others about the different ways to be a girl. Not just children either - lots of the girls' mums and dads also told me, "I wish my daughter would be into this stuff like your daughter is."
But you know what? Find your own fandom. It may well be Star Wars or superheroes. Hell, it may even be princesses. Just try not to make these decisions because you're a girl and you're trying to fit in. I know, that's easier said than done. But it's now up to you to navigate these choppy social waters. And don't worry that I'm not here to help you - I would be saying the same thing if I were still here. It's up to you to figure out the person you want to be.
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