A Letter A Year


Daddy and Erin: The Adventure Begins!

Today is my daughter Erin’s thirtieth birthday. She is the joy of my life, and as I have done on every one of her birthdays since her very first one, I gave her a letter that expresses how very proud and honored I am to be her father.

Giving Erin her birthday letter is a cherished tradition between us. We both save a copy for the sake of posterity. It’s awe-inspiring to look back through these annual letters and trace the arc of her life year by year.

My grandfather (my sister and I would come to call him Grampo) started the tradition by writing a birthday letter to my sister and me for much of our childhoods. He was a star letter writer, as I’ve written in an earlier post. Here are the letters that Grampo wrote to me on the day I was born and for my first eight birthdays.

Parents, it’s never too late to start this tradition. That goes for you too, grandparents. In fact, you could reverse the flow and write a letter to your own mom and dad on their birthdays. You could also start writing an annual love letter to your wife or husband on the occasion of your anniversary.


In Wisconsin Dells at our favorite restaurant, Paul Bunyan Lumberjack Meals

Just stop and think for a moment how your loved one will cherish these letters. After all, if you were on the receiving end, wouldn’t you look forward to each one and save them forever? I’m thinking that would be a yes.

OPTION: Instead of or in addition to a birthday letter, create a short video of yourself either reading the letter or just taking a few minutes to tell your child how wonderful they are and how much you love them. Again, how much would you value having a video from your own parent or grandparent telling you how much they love you? After doing this for a number of years, you could even splice all the videos together to create a priceless keepsake that your child will treasure until the end of time.

Click here to view all my posts on writing letters and notes to loved ones.

Click here to view all my posts about parenting.


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16 Responses to “A Letter A Year”

  1. Thorne Says:

    This is absolutely beautiful.

  2. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Thank you, Thorne!

  3. cesar Says:

    That picture of the baby and dad above reminds me of myself and my daughter. I’m one lucky father to have her as my daughter. The letter is a wonderful idea Phil. thanks!

  4. Phil Bolsta Says:

    You are very welcome, Cesar! I am always glad to hear of wonderful dad-and-daughter relationships!

  5. Catherine Nagle Says:

    What a treasure! And a legacy to go on and on…I love this idea. I intend to start my letters today. It’s never too late.
    Thank you very much, Phil:-)


  6. Phil Bolsta Says:

    I’m so glad to hear that, Catherine! I love knowing that other people are starting or carrying on special traditions like this!

  7. Todd Silva Says:

    Hi Phil,

    This is wonderful! You know, with Father’s Day right around the corner, this just might be the most perfect gift to give back to my daughters.

    Thank you for the awesome dad that you are, Phil!



  8. Phil Bolsta Says:

    That’s a great idea, Todd! The Father’s Day angle hadn’t occurred to me. Let me know how it goes!

  9. Francisco Says:

    Phil, that is very touching. Loving words from a parent are far better than a material gift. I am thankful that you shared this!

  10. Phil Bolsta Says:

    You’re very welcome, Francisco. I know what a loving dad you are too. Your kids are very lucky to have you for a father.

  11. Yoke-Yin Says:

    Thanks for sharing this with us. I admire your relationship between you and your daughter. In Chinese culture, we don’t show that kind of affection between father and daughter. Your letter reminds me a letter to my father that I never had a chance to send out. If I could turn back time, I would talk to my father more often and try to know him better. If you would like to read it, you can go to the following link http://purcaro.net/My%20Book/a_letter_never_sent.htm. The first page of this website is very slow because of the size of the photos, but this website will be updated very soon. Since English is my third language, please forgive any mistakes you notice.

    Take care!


  12. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Thank you for sharing that, Yoke-Yin. I have no doubt that your father felt the love you had for him. Although it’s always nice to hear the words, some things don’t actually have to be spoken.

    I just read your letter, Yoke-Yin. You are obviously a very loving daughter. Your father was a lucky man.

  13. bahamabob Says:


    It was once said that in literature, the best causes us to “see” things we always knew were true but never said. This letter concept is one of those transcendent truths.


  14. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Thanks, Bahamabob! Yes, we know instinctively that anything that deepens intimacy in relationships is of great value.

  15. Suza Says:

    This is so great! What a wonderful world it would be if all daughters had fathers like you!

    But for many daughters, including myself, a Letter would serve the purpose of confronting and challenging our fathers…they were mainly distant authority figures…

  16. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Don’t you agree that confronting and challenging can be a very good thing if done in the right spirit, Suza? Letting year after year pass by in silence only adds to the pain and alienation.

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