Modern Dads

TODAY dads’ letters to their daughters, from Matt Lauer, Carson Daly and Willie Geist

June 13, 2014 at 6:58 AM ET

In honor of Father's Day, TIME teamed up with Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg’s women’s empowerment foundation, to ask famous dads to write open letters to their daughters.

TODAY's Matt Lauer, Carson Daly and Willie Geist chimed in with their proud papa moments. 

Take a look at their submissions below, and read more letters celebrating the bond between fathers and daughters at "TIME/Lean In – Letters From Dad."

Matt Lauer

Dear Romy,

The funny thing about planned C-sections is that it's the father who gets to hold the baby first!

Image: Matt Lauer and his daughter, Romy
Matt Lauer
Matt Lauer reads to his daughter, Romy.

While the doctors were tending to your mom in the minutes after you were born, they gently washed your face, wrapped you in blankets, and then turned and placed you in my arms. I spent the next half hour or so holding you and looking down with amazement at your face. You were flushed from the journey from the internal to the external world, with that head full of the dark flowing hair I've come to search for in the crowd of your classmates when I pick you up after school.

And you were quiet! So quiet, as you lay there swaddled and staring into my eyes. I knew you weren't focusing on anything in particular, but I convinced myself that you couldn't take those beautiful brown eyes off of my handsome face! In those first moments together, the die was cast, the hook was set, and my heart was stolen. In the ten years that have followed, you have proven the cliché to be true. Yes, little girls really do cast a spell on their dads.

You've grown so fast and embraced so much — passing through some of the expected phases with little more than a brief pause, before stepping boldly into the next.

How did we get from those hysterical ballet lessons at the age of four, to the princess phase, when everything in your world had to be pink? How did we get from the little girl who loved animals to your fearlessness on horseback, despite the occasional trip to the emergency room? And how did you come to decide that you wanted to be one of just a few young ladies in our town to play Little League baseball? Did you have any idea how my heart was bursting with pride?

I'll never forget the second game of that first season. When you came up to bat, I was right there at the backstop twenty feet away as that pitcher hit you square in the back with a fastball. It was as if he had hit me because, for a second, that pitch knocked the wind out of me! I watched your face as you steeled yourself and began to trot down to first base. I wanted desperately to run onto the field to see if you were OK, but fatherhood 101 took a backseat to the fear that you would never talk to me again. You stood on first and wiped a tear from your eye. When your coach quietly asked if you wanted to stay in the game, you shook your head with all the determination you could muster, and said "yes!" I’ll hope you know there is nothing you could ever give me for Father's Day that could top the gift you gave me in that moment. 

Video: As part of this week’s “Modern Dad” series, TODAY’s Mat Lauer, Al Roker, Willie Geist and Carson Daly take a fishing trip together to reflect on the father figures in their life and their own roles as dads. (Dove Men+Care is a sponsor of TODAY.)

Romy, thank you for being the kind of sister you are to Jack and Thijs. They love you dearly, and mom and I are so proud of you all. 

Thank you for the gift of your compassion — for always being the first to want to help others, whether they're friends or total strangers. 

Thank you for your humor and even your moods — because one gets us all through the other.

On this father's day, I want you to know that I feel I'm right where I belong — tightly wrapped around your little finger.

I love you, Papa

Image: Carson Daly holds his daughter, Etta.
Carson Daly
Carson Daly holds his daughter, Etta.

Carson Daly

Dear Etta Spaghetta, 

After raising a son for three years, I was terrified of having a daughter. Then you were born, and I've watched you grow into a nearly two-year-old toddler... and I'm still terrified! At such a young age, I can already tell that you will have no problem figuring out what it is you want from this life and making sure you get it. While for now that means I say "NO Etta" multiple times a day, I know as you get older those words will translate into cheers of praise from your proud Pops. And even though your strong, ferocious spirit will send you soaring, I will always be here to catch you if you fall. So here is some advice from your old man: be honest, be kind, strive for a life of balance and it's okay if you get a tattoo WHERE I CAN SEE IT.  

With love, 

Your terrified (but not-too-terrified so stay away boys) dad. 

Willie Geist

Dear Lucie, 

Image: Willie Geist and his daughter
Willie Geist
Willie Geist and his daughter, Lucie.

Your mom and I spent a lot of time in the first years of your life staring at you and wondering, “Who are you going to grow up to be someday?” We couldn’t wait to hear your voice and see your personality. You were a little girl who I watched grow in her mother’s beautiful belly, who was born into the world crying and gooey, who needed bottles and burps and naps, who crawled and eventually began to walk, staggering around like a drunk in a crinkly diaper, who would eat a bag of marbles if you left her alone for too long, who cuddled up with her stuffed animals to feel safe, who had tantrums at the playground and spaghetti sauce in her hair, and who tortured her parents by requesting only “The Wiggles” from the in-house DJ. 

But there comes a moment for a Dad – it’s different for all of us, I guess – when that baby becomes an actual distinct person who must be reckoned with. You’ve amazed us all along, Lucie, with your smarts, with your curiosity, with your sense of humor, with your creativity, with empathy unusual for your age, and with, a father might add, your beauty. But the moment you officially announced yourself to the world came just a few weeks ago. 

My dad (your “Bumpa”) and I were given a party at the home of Mom’s parents (your “Nonna” and “Poppy”) on the release date of our new book. There were 50 or so adults there, most of whom you didn’t know. The party conflicted, though, with your final tap dancing class and you were given a choice: tap or Dad’s book event. When I told you there would be many more chances to join us in signing books, you said to me, at 6 years old, “Daddy, I know how important your big night is, so I want to come.” That level of selflessness from a first grader would have been enough to melt me on its own, but it was what you and Mom cooked up next that made my heart explode. 

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Mom quieted the crowd outside on the back patio at the party and announced that you would be performing your final routine from tap class right there in front of all those people. Out you bounded from the sliding screen door of the kitchen wearing your tap shoes. With the eyes of 50 strange adults staring at you in silence, you ripped off a perfect performance, punctuated by a big, rapid-fire finale that had those grown-ups whistling and cheering. You took a bow, accepted a massive hug from me, and went back inside. 

Everyone there knew immediately whose night it was. Lucie Geist was in the building. 

Love you, Luce. 

Dad

Follow Joy Jernigan on Twitter @JoyJernigan or on Google+.


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