Letters of Life | comparethemarket.com

What piece of advice would you want to pass on to your children?

We all know from our own experiences that there is nothing that can replace the life advice of a parent to their children, from life learnings drawn from personal experiences to the pieces of advice passed on by your own parents and more.

That’s why we’ve asked a range of parents, from well-known author, presenter and blogger Giovanna Fletcher, to dad bloggers the DigiDads, to pen open letters to their own children - giving them an opportunity to pass on their own words of wisdom.

As part of our campaign, we want to get you involved too. From what not to wear, to how others should be treated, to what food they should always avoid, to tips for keeping your bank balance out of the red, and whatever else you’d like to pass on - we want you to share it!

Join the conversation using the hashtag #LettersofLife, and tell us – what’s the one piece of advice you’d like to pass on to your child?

You Will Not Always Be Liked

Dear Buzz and Buddy,

I've been wondering what to say here. You see, I wanted to write you a letter about life – a lesson that I learned the hard way, so that you don’t have to. I’ve spent some time thinking about what to focus on for this single entry, when really there's a book worth of letters I could send to you both each containing different topics and chapters life might throw your way.

Image of Giovanna

I could write to you about making sure you take time for yourselves, doing a job that you absolutely love, or making sure you travel and see the world. I could choose to do something completely different and pass on some of your favourite food recipes instead, just in case I never get a chance to teach you how to cook a pasta sauce or a vegetable lentil curry myself (you both wolf these two meals down).

It’s been a tough decision to make, but I’ve decided to write to you about the first lesson I wish I'd learned. I guess that makes this the letter that I wish I could have written to my younger self, too.

I can still remember being surrounded by organised chaos on the first day of school. It was nothing like play group; it instantly felt bigger and more grown up. I could sense children around me were becoming friends and I wanted in on the bonding action.

Bizarrely, I somehow found myself on the outside looking in. Don't get me wrong – I had friends and lots of them, too. But I never felt properly accepted, rather that I was floating around without one particular best mate. I was liked but not THAT liked. I was inoffensive, sweet and kind – but my one true friend match just wasn't in that first class. It could be that everyone felt the same way but were great at covering up any insecurity that they might’ve felt. To me, though, they all seemed so set and contented.

It was three years later that the bullying started. Thinking about it now, it may actually have been going on even before then. Two best mates let me join their duo, making me part of a new trio.

Sometimes threes work. I know the whole 'two's company, three's a crowd' saying is popular, but I don't believe in that. Threes can work, but they just didn't for us. Perhaps they never wanted it to work in the first place and they were just messing with me, but I have to believe that eight-year-olds aren’t so naturally mean. The bullying was both mental and physical and it only stopped because we moved house.

It might surprise you to hear that something that occurred when I was so young had a huge effect on me as an adult when it came to making friends and longing to be accepted. If it became clear someone didn’t like me then I would go out of my way to win that person over. As a result, I have lost a lot of time focusing on people I really shouldn’t have bothered with. It’s only since you boys arrived that I’ve put a stop to that. I don’t have the time to play games when it comes to friendships.

You might wonder why I'm telling you all this. It's simply because I hope it gives you permission to not care if you aren't accepted by everyone. The truth is that not everyone is going to like you anyway – and that’s normal and fine.

There will be those who might find you annoying, needy, weird or loud. Trust me, though, there will be far more people who think you’re wonderful, intelligent, funny and kind – focus on them instead. Let those be the type of people you give your time and share your lives with

Bad friendships leave you feeling belittled and unworthy, while good friendships leave you secure and happy.

Bad friendships make you doubt your self worth, while good ones make you feel like you can do anything you set your mind to.

The great thing is that YOU get to choose who your friends are. YOU get to decide what type of friends you have by your side.

We're all individual and unique, and that's what makes us so brilliant. So embrace exactly what makes you YOU and run with it while creating the best squad in the world.

And remember, you will always have each other. If you’re anything like me, your Aunty Giorgina and Uncle Mario, you’ll drive each other mad at times, but you’ll also be the best of friends. Don’t underestimate the unconditional love that comes from family.

Love you always,

Your Mumma

xxxxxxxxxxx

Tom Briggs

Dear Dylan, Xander, and Amelie,

It's Daddy, Or Dad. Or The Old Man, depending on how far into the future you're reading this.

Oh for goodness sake, share. I can't believe I'm having to tell you to stop bickering from beyond the grave. Oh yes, spoiler alert, you're reading this because I am no longer of this earth. Anyway, just take alternate paragraphs, okay? If you're still feeling inconsolable at my demise, take alternate words - that'll cheer you up.

Tom Briggs

At the time of writing, I still hadn't written a will so I hope you gave me a Viking burial and had a barbecue on the beach afterwards.

The main purpose of this is to share some advice now that I'm too busy being dead to impart it in person. I'll elaborate of course but, in short, just be yourselves.

You're all hilarious, clever, kind, beautiful people and I'm so lucky to have known you. Life is short and the world we live in isn't what it used to be, but you and Mummy/Mum/The Old Lady are the reasons I was always an optimist. How else could I have carried on supporting Spurs for so long, eh?

Live life to the full. Remain kind to others. Surround yourselves with people who make you happy and who you want to see happy. Speaking of which, don't hang round with people who won't allow you to be yourselves. Friendship doesn't have an agenda and people who do are a bit weird and best avoided.

Visit new places, try new things and never stop learning. Listen to good music, eat good food, laugh a lot and never take yourselves too seriously.

Do what you want to do in life and don't let anyone trample on your dreams. Ignore people who tell you you're wasting your time or that there's too much competition - they're not worth your time.

By the same token, don't remain associated with things that make you miserable. Boys, remember when I was in that old job I hated and you hardly ever saw me during daylight hours? And remember how much happier we all were once I told them to do one? Yeah, that.

Do have kids. Words can't fully articulate how fantastic it has been being your dad and you'll all make awesome parents. Don't fret about it too much. I'll let you into a little secret here - I’ve been winging it since day one and you've all turned out okay. Having the confidence of your convictions is key here - it doesn't matter if you make mistakes as long as you learn from them.

Don't just look forward to the big things either. Look around you and embrace the small and apparently insignificant ones too - like that glorious moment you wake up and realise it's Saturday or when you suddenly remember you're having pizza for dinner. Little wins like those can keep you going during tough times.

Dylan, I see so much of my younger self in you, but please be an improved version of me. Believe in yourself more because you're brilliant. If people ever mock you for enjoying your studies, ignore them, they're jealous. I tell you what else - they tend to end up wondering what might have been. It's okay to be smugly satisfied about that now and then in adult life.

Xander, I know I said do what you want in life, but keep it within reason, yeah? There's a computer hacker in you so either transfer those skills to something a little more legal or use them ethically. Please keep your wicked sense of humour intact and never stop delighting in moments of mild peril.

Amelie, never lose your defiant streak. I'll readily admit that it's still driving me round the bend at the time of writing, but you'll grow into it. Stay determined and keep doing that face you do when people tell you that you can't do something. Sadly, you're still at a disadvantage in our backwards, sexist society so give them hell.

There are so many more things I could say but, all being well, I'll get to say them in person over a great many years. If that isn't the case, just think of happy times and I'll be there in your memories.

Love you, you bunch of nutters!

Dad

John Adams

Dear Offspring,


If you’re reading this letter, I regret to say it’s because the worst has happened and I have passed away. Sorry about that. Makes me feel frightfully rude, truth be told. I hope it doesn’t inconvenience you too much.

Anyway, I guess I should use this as an opportunity to pass on some of what I learned during my life. Who knows, you might find some of it useful.

John Adams

Firstly, table manners. Wherever you go and whatever you do in life, you will be judged by your table manners. Keep your mouth shut as you chew, put your knife and fork down between mouthfuls, and for goodness sake remember that your side plate is to the left and your glass is to the right.

Have you ever seen the confusion that can be unleashed when a group of people are sitting at a circular dining table and someone uses the wrong side plate?  It happened when I was eating out once - the result was best described as carnage.

Let’s go for something a little more profound, now shall we? Regrettably, heartbreak is a fact of life. Do yourself a favour and get your heartbroken once when you are very young. It’ll hurt, but any subsequent break-ups will be much easier to deal with.

On the subject of romance, choose your partner with care. Only involve yourself with someone who you can respect and who respects you. Your significant other should lift you up and support you, and you should be selfless in supporting them. For a relationship to work there needs to be parity and respect. If your relationship does not have either of these, move on.

Okay, we’ve done profound. Let’s try something else.

Ah, yes, here’s some advice that will help you out enormously: Avoid wine bores. Wine is very simple. It should ideally be French, have a vintage, be bottled on the chateau, made from a trusted grape, and cost no more than a tenner a bottle. If anyone expresses an opinion beyond this, alarm bells should ring. If someone explicitly says they know a lot about wine, make your excuses and leave very quickly.

Getting serious again for a moment, help those less fortunate than yourself. Whatever upset the world throws at you, there will always be people in greater need. Offer what help you can and do not judge their situation. It may simply be giving a homeless person some clothes or food. Just do what you can - the smallest things can make a huge difference.

As for money, be better with your money than I was. As you may have noticed, you aren’t inheriting a great deal. Sorry.

Okay kids, I’m going to bring this missive to an end. Love, be loved, respect others, and where others see problems, try to see an opportunity. Enjoy yourselves and remember as you get older, time moves faster.

One final thing: The music can never, ever be too loud.

Your ever-loving father.

Dave Hornby

Dear L,

If you are reading this, then it either means that (a) I am no longer of this world, or (b) you are on my laptop – in which case, please leave it alone, and whatever you do, don’t look in the Internet history.

Assuming it’s the former – and for my sake, I hope it is – I’m writing you this letter from the grave oooooOOOoooo. Sorry about that, the ‘o’ key sometimes sticks – I reckon it’s that time you ‘accidentally’ touched it with your sticky toddler hands.

Dave Hornby

The point of this letter is to share some of my worldly advice with you. I kind of figure that you barely listened to me when I was alive, so I can only hope that me being six feet under has changed your stance on what I have to say.

For an ‘advice letter’, my first point may be a little confusing. Take advice with a pinch of salt. Listen to what people have to say, process it, then make an informed decision yourself. People will always have an opinion – and will have no qualms in telling you what it is – but only you can decide what’s best for yourself and those around you.

It’s therefore important for you to be self-sufficient and self-reliant. Use that inquisitive and exploratory mind of yours to figure things out for yourself. It’s all too easy to rely on other people and get them to do things for you, but you’ll go a hell of a lot further if you give it a go and learn along the way.

You will need help in life though, so don’t be afraid to ask. You have a family around you who think the world of you. We may not always be around – yeah, sorry about dying – but know that we will be with you in other ways. Your heart, your mind, and even your bank account assuming my will is up to date.

Even at the age of three, you have such a personable nature that I’m positive you’ll have a fantastic group of friends around you. Surround yourself with people you can trust, who have your back and bring out the best in you. We’d all like to be the most popular person ever, but a few close friends who really ‘get you’ will be infinitely better than hundreds of acquaintances that don’t. Know though that not all friendships last. People change and situations change, so don’t be sad if your best friends forever are actually just best friends for a few years.

Let’s move onto relationships. Find someone who loves you the way that you love them. Someone who will make you happy – whatever happiness is as defined by you. Whatever your preference, know that we will never judge you and only want you to be happy. You deserve the best, but even the best isn’t perfect. Relationships are challenging, so communicating, compromising, and not giving up is key.

If you want kids, that’s fine. If you don’t want kids, that’s equally fine. Becoming a dad has taught me so much about myself and about things I never knew. I’m not going to advise you one way or another, but know that being your dad was my most successful achievement in life and becoming a parent is a fantastic – albeit hugely challenging – experience.

I hope that society has changed for the better and you now live in a world free of discrimination, sexism, racism, homophobia and all that other crap. However, at the time of writing, society is horrendously unfair. Whatever anyone tells you, know that no-one – and I mean no-one – is better than you because of things like your gender, sexuality or ethnicity. Believe in yourself and be yourself.

You are likely to experience unfair things. Life can be crap. However, you don’t have to accept things for how they are. Challenge, rebel, fight, inspire, believe – you can be that change. Your actions can have a positive impact on the world around you, so be kind, be thoughtful and be helpful. Remember to treat people the way you want to be treated and don’t let anyone get away with doing something they shouldn’t. Stand up and fight for what you believe in.

Oh, one final thing. Never go to the toilet before checking that there’s sufficient toilet paper to wipe thoroughly. I can speak from experience that this is a messy situation.

Love,

Dad

Simon Ragoonanan

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. 

Simon Ragoonanan

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. 

Darren Coleshill

Hi Aly & Mia,

It’s Daddy...still, remember me? Did anyone cry when they threw me into the sea? Neither of you had better have cheered, otherwise there will be trouble.

I’ve returned like Casper...you know, the friendly ghost - not like a scary one from Ghostbusters.

Over the years I’ve learnt a few things (not many, just a few) that might help you along the way. The main one is that I’ve left a shed load of money...the problem is I’ve forgotten when I buried it. 

Darren Coleshill

There are three things you need to remember - work hard, be nice, and have fun. These three things - whether online, at work, or in life, will set you right.

There will be times when you’re not the quickest or not the smartest, but what gives you the advantage is the ability to work harder than anyone else. That doesn’t mean work longer hours, but work smarter during those hours.

Be nice. People react more positively if you smile and say please and thank you. Give it a try... even when somebody cuts you off on the road, or fails to hold the door open for you...remember to be nice. *cough* I always was!

Importantly, always make sure you have fun. The World is too serious and life can be tough, so make sure you always have fun. If you’re not, then change something - try not to do things you don’t enjoy.

Now I have given you my advice - that you will no doubt ignore, and then suddenly when you’re older you say ‘oh actually dad was right’ - I have a few more things to share that you should keep in mind as you grow older.

I hope you are forever happy. Being a parent doesn’t come naturally to most people - it’s something you learn along the way, a bit like times tables...no one knows the answers right away, but you get there in the end. Unless it’s your mum, and then she’s got no chance with her times tables. Maths isn’t her strong subject, but no one comes close to her arts and crafts projects.

I imagine by now she’s building a giant craft room - just please don’t let it get out of control.

I tried to show you some of the World, but it’s a big place out there so try and see as much as you possibly can. Life is too short, so make sure you watch the sun rise and set in as many different places as possible.

Never forget me, but don’t be sad when you think of me...think of all the happiness.

Love, Daddy 

Creative consideration and inspiration for crafting your own Letter of Life 

If you’re looking for inspiration for your own letter, scroll down to take a look at some thought-starters on what you could include.

If you’re thinking about writing your own letter to your children, you’ll know that what’s most important is that your letter is a genuine reflection of the individual advice, life lessons, and anecdotes you want to pass down.

Letters of life - how to be creative

These are just some points for consideration, however of course the tone, length and final content are totally up to you! 

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