The Only Father’s Day Gift You Need: A Letter of Appreciation

No more ties. No more gift certificates. This year give your father something that truly shows your appreciation for all he’s done: a letter.

Father’s Day was probably founded with good intentions. A day devoted to honoring the men half responsible for bringing us up in the world. A day of thanks. Of appreciation. Of admiration.

Unfortunately as all ‘required’ holidays go (I’m looking at you, Valentines Day), our culture’s preferred method of honoring our fathers has devolved into Outback Steakhouse gift certificates and the cliche tie.

Why is this? Well, I suppose it’s an understandable problem. It’s difficult to throw your father a parade every June. It’s hard to tell your father that you’re grateful for this, that, and the other thing every year. That too would lose its specialness.

The problem is — many of us have never properly honored our fathers. We’ve been trained that Father’s Day is like Valentines Day, a day to buy your dad some tool that’s on sale or a novelty golf trinket.

“Thanks for everything, here’s a crescent wrench.”

We’re at the age where we can, and should do better. This year, do something you’ve never done, and give him the ultimate Father’s Day gift. Write him a letter of appreciation.

A formal letter, a handwritten declaration of thanks. Saying thank you in a way Outback Steakhouse never could.

Hopefully you’re lucky enough that your father hasn’t passed away yet. You may think this whole thing is a silly idea. Imagine yourself in 35 years, your father now gone several years, only wishing you had the opportunity to tell the man a simple “thank you.” To tell him how grateful you are for all he had done.

The world is full of men with stories of regret because they never got to explain to their fathers how thankful they are of everything; the highs and the lows. Men who promise to have a different relationship with their own kids. Men who will grow old and die without hearing these things from their own sons. Don’t be one of these men. Thank your father.

Unfortunately many people our age don’t have fathers. They don’t know the man, aren’t on speaking terms, or perhaps they know him and have nothing to thank him for.

Father’s Day isn’t about celebrating that a man got a woman pregnant. It’s about thanking those role models who fulfilled the father role in our lives. Someone inspired you to become the man you are today. Your mother? A grandfather? A middle school coach? Thank them for their role in your life.

Who taught you to tie a tie? To respect women? To put them first, in situations as simple as holding a door or as important as life or death. That a man doesn’t hit a woman, he loves her.

Who taught you to stand up for what is right? To say what needs to be said? When to be silent and gentle. To do whatever is necessary to protect and provide for his family?

Who was a role model for professional success? Or who sacrificed his own passions to work a shitty job his whole life to pay for your sisters braces.

Who taught you that you can’t go through life thinking with your dick?

Who taught you to fix something that’s broken, instead of buying something new? That spending 6 hours trying to fix the refrigerator on a Saturday afternoon is better than buying a new one.

A source of motivation.  A guide for right and wrong. Who showed you the importance of being your own man? Even when that means the two of you disagree? Who trained you to believe nothing you read and only half of what you see?  Who demonstrated the importance of being safe and conventional and gave you the courage to break the mold to get outside your comfort zone?

Why a letter?

You may stop reading here and be inspired to give your graces in person, or jot down an appreciative e-mail.  But that’s insufficient to get your message across.

Man to man, especially with a dad can be impossible. Some fathers are gruff and won’t tolerate the awkwardness or the sentiment. Others put up walls to shield their emotions from others. These guys are from a different generation. A letter allows you to say everything you need to, just the way you want to. It allows you to say things you could never say in person. It allows you to revise and edit your message to make sure you convey the sentiment that is important to you.

A written letter gives you the ability to plan out everything you want to say without your old man interrupting you or trying to ease the situation with humor. It empowers you to talk about everything that has made you the man you’ve become, the good, the bad, and everything you cherish for learning from it.

An e-mail lacks permanence. There’s a reason people back in the day saved letters from their wives for their whole lives. A letter is an emotional extension of a person. A physical instrument that can bring people together who are far apart. A way of saying the things you have in your head and your heart that you’d never have the balls to say in person.

Someone somewhere sacrificed a lot so you could become the gentleman you are today. In the end, are you man enough to tell your father figure how truly grateful you are?

Need some help with the specifics? Check out this post on Art of Manliness.

Andrew is the founder and editor of Primer. He's a graduate of American University and currently lives in Los Angeles. Read more about Primer on our About page.