To the mother of my children,

That day was such a blur. We hardly knew what was happening to us. It didn’t help that she was two weeks early. Or that she was born on New Year’s Day just hours after we’d gone “all in” on one final kidless party. I will be forever grateful for the triage nurse who finally admitted us so that I could get a nap.

Me. Not you...even with your swollen belly and feet and cheeks and heart. You were incredible that day. That whole nine months. I remember we discovered we were pregnant the day before Mother’s Day. Four days later we were the proud owners of a timeshare in Cabo San Lucas thanks to our boundless optimism, as well as incredible stupidity, about what it would mean for us to become a family.

Since we met, I’ve run two marathons. I’ve ridden my bicycle from Seattle to Portland twice and from Seattle to Canada once. I’ve escaped from Alcatraz five times and swam across Lake Washington twice. I’ve completed a triathlon. I’ve attempted to hike up Mount Rainier. I even did one of those muddy obstacle course races to prove how “tough” I was.

But you created a life. What you accomplished over those months is awe inspiring. It makes all of my medals and ribbons and certificates seem puny, even phony. Because of what you created that day. Because of her. She’s 13 now, currently carving through the water at swim practice. You made her. You make her every day. She’s priceless.

But you made something else that day. You made a father. My relationship with fathers and Father’s Day is complicated. I’ll not spill too much ink on my own father except to say that I do wish the best version of him had gotten a chance to meet the best version of me. But I’ve had a ton of great fathers step in where he didn’t or wouldn’t or couldn’t: Ray, Otis, Keith, Ron, George, Sean, and Steve and Steve and Steve. But none of them. Not one taught me to be a father as you have.

Join Motherly

I am so grateful for the father you are making me into. Your grace, your kindness, your courage, as well as your rage, your fear, your despair have all invited me to step up on her behalf. Of course now there are two of them. The second arrived on Halloween, and she is both haunted and hallowed. They’re both priceless creations.

They’re smart, powerful, compassionate, wild, and beautiful. Like their mother.

They dance, swim, play, and dream with reckless abandon. Like their mother.

They’re creative. Like their mother.

The three of you have all created a father.

I could not be more grateful. The greatest privilege of my life is writing the story of our family. Not with this sticky keyboard, but with you. Some day, not too long from now, our girls are going to sit on some therapist’s couch and they’re going to start talking about their parents.

What will they say? Can you imagine what might come out of their mouth?

I hope it is this:

My parents took care of each other. They were great friends. They fought with integrity. They were intentional. Even though they made a ton of mistakes, they were really good at apologizing, to one another and to us. They were a team. As hard as we tried, we couldn’t get between them.

My dad adored my mom. And us. We never doubted that he was absolutely in love with her and also absolutely committed to us. And my mom...she respected my dad. She respected him enough to let him lead and speak for our family; but she also respected him enough to let him know when he was being a dork. She was crazy about him. She was his equal.

Family mattered to them, but not just our family of four. And not the families that defined them. Somehow, they cared about our future families. They cared about who we would become as adults. They wanted us to grow up to be emotionally and physically and spiritually independent. I think mostly because they wanted to be able to rest easy once they had the house to themselves again.

My parents, just like all parents, did a ton of damage. They’re broken, just like me, but they loved me and they helped me create good boundaries. I’m sure I’ll complain about them forever, but I know with certainty that they were mostly good. And they were definitely good for each other.

That’s what I hope they say.

So here’s what I want you, as the mother who created a father, to know:

You are good for me. I know you are broken. And I know that you know that I am broken. I am so grateful to share life with you. Even, and perhaps, especially the life we will share after our girls are gone. I look forward to loving them as adults. To traveling with them—to Cabo, obviously—and to becoming part of their future families. I adore you you. And I am in awe of you. I love fighting with you and making up with you. You are my best friend. And I am committed to protecting our friendship, our love affair, from all comers. Including our two priceless trophies.

You made me a father. But you also made me a husband. I accept both roles. But mostly I accept that you are a creator, and I am grateful for the opportunity to be creative with you.

Thank you for making me into the man, husband, father that I am.

Zach Brittle is a licensed mental health counselor and Certified Gottman Therapist based in Seattle, Wa. He is the founder of forBetter, which offers online courses for couples, and the best-selling author of The Relationship Alphabet. His writings and insights have also been featured in Verily Magazine, Psych Central, Happify, Men’s Health Magazine and the Washington Post. He has been happily married to Rebecca for 18 of 19 years – year #8 was pretty rough. Together, they have two daughters (9 & 13), a minivan, and most of the silverware we got as wedding presents.

Join Motherly