Dear Twenty-Month-Old Daughter, I’m Sorry You Didn’t Get My Email Today

Reminding myself what it means to be a good father and a good husband

Paulo da Silva
Feb 14 · 10 min read
Toddler looking over father’s shoulder, black and white
Toddler looking over father’s shoulder, black and white
Licensed from Adobe Stock

Dear baby girl,

I shouldn’t be writing this. I should be writing you an email instead.

I’ve been telling you in the last ten mails that I’ll write more often, that I’m taking notes and I’ll catch them all up one of these days. But you’re progressing so fast that the notes only pile up.

You do so many new things a day that I don’t get to write them all down. Today you sang “Happy birth to daddy” then “Happy birth to mommy” then “Happy birth to the table.” I was about to note it down when I remembered that I had forgotten to note down your proclivity for using “the” (or “da” as you say it) in all your sentences — “Daddy do da pressing of da button” or “Mommy do da fetching of da water” or “Mommy do da kissing of da teddy.”

I wanted to document every step of your life and deliver it to you in a massive, professionally bound tome when you’re eighteen.

I opened this email account for you a few months after you were born. I wanted to document every step of your life and deliver it to you in a massive, professionally bound tome when you’re eighteen. I’ve thought of this moment many times in my head.

But I’m failing at this. I’m failing at writing to you as regularly as I want to.

When you turned one-year-old I emailed you and told you I was sorry that I have failed to make the dough necessary to get us out of Germany and to the UK where your mom and I feel you will have a better life. Germany is no country for raising children. You belong to the state from the moment you’re born. Did you know you have a tax number? Yes, they gave it to you when you were two weeks old. Try not to earn too much before you’re five, okay? You’d embarrass your daddy if you suddenly needed to pay more taxes than I do.

Also, we want to homeschool you, for no other reason than that we feel we’d do a good job at it — but Germany forbids this.

You already know your alphabet. You say, “Mmm for mommy! Wah for watch! Duh for doggy!” (Although “wah” sounds more like “vuh for vahtch.”) You understand the three languages we speak to you and respond in the language you’re being addressed in. The thought of putting you in a school where you’ll be forced to learn these things again is appalling.

But we do not have the money to put you in a private school.

Ah, yes, therein lies the crux of it: Me making money. This is where it all falls down. This is why I don’t email your account as often as I did.

Because I’m working all the time.


I wrote to you in December and told you I was “working hard to achieve our goals,” that I missed you because I didn’t have so much time to spend with you like I used to before I became “so determined to finally make it happen for us.”

I wanted to be the one to teach you the alphabet. But your mother has done it instead. She didn’t even do it consciously. I simply had no time to be with you because I was writing my “next bestseller.” So she would go through the ABC book with you at night while you both lay down in bed. (You call it the “A-Bah-Kuh” book because she’s teaching you the alphabet phonetically.)

I am so proud of you both, and yet I am also saddened. I am saddened that I could not have my career handled at the age of thirty-nine. I’m saddened that I am not the success I wish I were.

I am saddened that I could not have my career handled at the age of thirty-nine.

I’m saddened that this takes my time away from you while I try to hustle to get this train moving after decades of being stalled.

When I say I’m “working” I actually mean I’m writing. I have tried to hit that “big break” as a novelist for the last eight years, and I’ve been trying harder than ever since you were born. I have made progress, yes, yet you grow older by day. The months tick by, and before we know it, another year is gone.

I promised you, in that email on your first birthday — promised you — that we would be living in England on your second birthday. I promised you we’d have a huge party with other kids there, with friends of ours, and that I’d work my ass off to make it happen.

I did work my ass off. But I haven’t made it happen.

And so that’s a broken promise. Your second birthday is coming up in May.

It didn’t help that your mom was down for nearly three months in 2019 with crippling sciatica so bad that I had to take care of you full-time for most of that time. She was unable to get out of bed for a month, barely able to walk for a month after that. I did no work or writing at all during that time. The stress of potential failure meant that I was not as kind to her as I should have been. I lost my temper and shouted. You heard these shouts. I will forever regret this more than you can imagine.

But these three months also taught me some things about what it means to be a good husband and a good father. I had no clue what these things meant before. Our family came out of this hell, my love. We came out of it, and we are stronger than ever.

But these three months also taught me some things about what it means to be a good husband, and a good father.

I learned something about stepping up to the plate.


Baseball batter and pitcher.
Baseball batter and pitcher.
Images licensed from Adobe Stock.

I always thought that being a good husband and a good father was about constantly stepping up to the plate, about never giving up swinging no matter how much your shoulder hurts.

But I had it wrong. Being a good husband and father means knowing when to put the bat down so you can take your daughter to the zoo, or go watch a movie with your wife. It means being willing to lose the entire game so that your daughter remembers the hugs instead of the endless hours on the bleachers, wondering when her daddy was gonna take a break so he could go play dolls with her.

But I had it wrong. Being a good husband and father means knowing when to put the bat down so you can take your daughter to the zoo, or go watch a movie with your wife.

I put the bat down two weeks ago, and we’re all much happier for it. I realized that the self-publishing game is rigged, that big companies like Amazon and iTunes make money so long as you keep believing that your next book will be a bestseller. They make money so long as thousands and thousands of authors publish their tales and sell at least a few meager copies of them.

Whether one author sells a million copies or a million authors sell one copy makes absolutely no difference to Amazon. Except, a million authors writing one blog post about how easy it is to publish on Amazon makes for a lot of free advertising for Amazon.

So what’s better for Amazon? A few bestselling authors, or millions of mediocre-selling authors?

It took me a long time to get wise to this game. Eight years. It brought our family’s stress levels to a boil. It gave me a helluva bruised shoulder from swinging at all those dirty balls.

Two weeks ago I realized that I should be treating my writing as a business.

I know business. I’ve been in business as an independent computer programmer and web developer for seventeen years. I’ve done pretty well at it, although my lack of love for my profession has always hindered me. I have always been an artist first.

If there is one commodity us writers are abundant in, it’s hope.

But I have clients. My clients don’t know that I write. I write “not too badly,” methinks. The idea of approaching a client with a proposal to write stuff for his company sounds endlessly more appealing than throwing a line into the Amazon pond and hoping I’ll catch the next big fish.

So there is hope.

But hope has never been lacking. If there is one commodity we writers are abundant in, it’s hope.


The time you and I spent together when your mom was ill turned me into a real father. That’s when I learned truly what it means to be there for my daughter, my wife, my family.

Being a good husband and father means being an island in the storm. It means never getting angry. It means smiling when you feel like the world is falling down on your shoulders.

It means ignoring the fact that some lunatic leader in the west is pushing the world to the brink of atomic war with another lunatic in the east, and pretending to your daughter that the world is a beautiful and safe place so that she can remember her childhood with joy.

Being a good husband and father means being an island in the storm. It means never getting angry. It means smiling when you feel like the world is falling down on your shoulders.

We all grew as a result of our dark period last year — me more than the rest because I needed to grow the most. You have a baby brother on the way, due in March, and we would’ve never considered having another child if you had not brought such joy into our lives.


What stings the most when I’m working such long hours is that I don’t think you’d even care much, when you’re older, if we live in Germany or the UK, or even in Italy or France. I think you’ll only really care about the good memories, about the day trips we took together, about us going to the lake yesterday to feed the ducks.

Your mother made that happen. She also made the zoo happen, where you learned the sound the kookaburras make, as well as the otters, and still remember how to make those sounds even though mom and I have totally forgotten.

I didn’t have enough of those good memories growing up.

Your mother pulls me away from my keyboard, reminds me that the sun is shining today and that it might not shine tomorrow.

I grumble and moan when she wants us to take time off together; I tell her we have goals, urgent things to deal with. But she persists gently, and afterward I am always — always — overjoyed at what an incredible time we had.

You’d think I would’ve learned my lesson by now. But stubbornness is my greatest flaw.

Your mother pulls me away from my keyboard, reminds me that the sun is shining today, and that it might not shine tomorrow.

We are a good team — you, me and your mom. Our bond was forged in a crucible of tremendous heat. I will never forget 2019. We were lucky to pull through. Not everyone shares this luck.


I have never emailed you about my writing because I fear so strongly that I will fail at it. I do not want to look like a failure in your eyes. I want you to think that my life was made only of successes, and so therefore maybe you’ll believe that you, too, can succeed in life.

But this is me. I am a man trying to make good for his family. I am an imperfect man who tries, fails, and tries again.

I know that you’ll someday come to understand that your daddy isn’t perfect. I’m hoping I can delay that realization, like holding off the truth of Santa Claus for as long as possible. I’m hoping that I can handle some of those imperfections before it’s too late.

Maybe I needed to remind myself that the coin of memory is a rare one, with a limited supply.

Maybe I should be writing this article instead of mailing you. Maybe I needed to remind myself that the coin of memory is a rare one, with a limited supply.

Soon you will be too heavy for me to hold you at night. Soon you’ll grow old enough to not be afraid of the dark, and of random noises. Soon you won’t ask me for hugs as often.

You used to fall asleep by yourself every night for three months. We would put you in bed and you would play with your teddy bear and then doze off thirty or sixty minutes later. Then your molars started coming out, and now you’re terrified of being left alone.

So I rock you and sit with you and play relaxing music with you for one-and-a-half to two hours a day to help you go to sleep. I relish this time with you, even though it exhausts me. I have to sit and rest for twenty minutes afterward, and then lug myself to the keyboard at nine or ten P.M. to try to squeeze some more words out for the day.

I am honored that we have melded into such a strong family despite our (my) flaws.

But I am honored that you look up to me, that you count on me for support, for comfort. I am honored that I am able to help your mom who is eight months pregnant. I am honored that we have melded into such a strong family despite our (my) flaws.

One day you won’t need me to rock you to sleep. I think I fear that day more than I fear not earning the living I need to earn for you.

No amount of money in the world could pay for these memories.

I could be a better father. You make me better. Your mom makes me better. We make a good team.

I needed to remind myself of that.

Maybe I did write you an email today, after all.

And this is it.

All my love,
Your eternally humbled father

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Paulo da Silva

Written by

Loving Dad. Mostly mediocre. Totally not famous. Writes for a living. https://uk.authorpaulo.com

The Dad Hammer Pub

A hammer is a tool for building. As FATHERS we build into our children. This is The Dad Hammer Publication, a tool to help you to build into your children.

Paulo da Silva

Written by

Loving Dad. Mostly mediocre. Totally not famous. Writes for a living. https://uk.authorpaulo.com

The Dad Hammer Pub

A hammer is a tool for building. As FATHERS we build into our children. This is The Dad Hammer Publication, a tool to help you to build into your children.

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