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After a career setback a few years ago, Chris Yandle felt like he was failing both in his work career and at home: He had lost his high-profile public relations job in college athletics after moving his family from city to city for career opportunities, and he felt guilty for not being more present for his daughter Addison, then 9.
"I felt like I had let my family down, specifically my kids," he told TODAY's Craig Melvin during a segment of "Dad's Got This."
One morning on a whim, Yandle hurriedly scribbled a note to Addison on a Ziploc bag when he was making her lunch for school and slipped it into her bag. "And the rest," he said, "is history."
Yandle began to write Addison lunch notes every day as a way of supporting her through the tribulations of tweenhood as she started her fourth school in five years. He had spent his own childhood moving around for his father's job and knew it wasn't easy.
"I never really had a place that I could call home," he told Craig. "I didn't want to do that to my kids, but I ended up doing it to them anyway."
At one point, Yandle and his wife, Ashleigh, also realized Addison was experiencing some bullying at school, picking up on red flags through her body language and grades. He adjusted the tone of his notes to try to help her through it.
"I want her to know that, hey, not everything is going to be sunshine and rainbows," he told Craig."[Lunch notes] might not be the way that other dads do it, but this is my way to help."
Yandle said he doesn't believe in the popular stereotype that paints dads as people who do not know how to interact emotionally with their children. To that end, he took his "lunch notes" public in 2018 by publishing a book of them, "Lucky Enough: A Year of Dad's Daily Notes of Encouragement and Life Lessons to His Daughter."
"Lucky Enough: A Year of Dad's Daily Notes of Encouragement and Life Lessons to His Daughter," by Chris Yandle
Now 600 notes and counting later, Yandle is still writing to Addison, even as she completes seventh grade remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and he has no plans to stop.
Addison almost always still enjoys the notes, with a few exceptions, she told Craig: when he makes a bad dad jokes. "It makes me cringe," she said.
Yandle's attempt to grow closer to his daughter and support her worked: Addison said if she were to write him a lunch note of his own, "it would basically say something about... how much I care about him, and it would be, like, a note to stay on the right path," she said.