As I turn 50, this is what I want to tell my family

To: My daughters, Ashely, Sydney and Morgan

From: Marty Shagrin (As told to Lauren Brill)

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Dear Ashley, Morgan, and Sydney, 

As you know, I am about to turn 50. I have been thinking about my journey and what I really want from life. 

So clearly,  I remember when my father, your Papa, turned 50. It wasn’t just a milestone for him, but it was also when I noticed a shift in our relationship. At the time, I was 17- just a little younger than each of you. I was still my dad’s son, but I was no longer a child. Our conversations felt more adult. When I went to college, we picked the school together. When I chose a career path, we went over it together. And when I got engaged, we bought the ring and made that decision together.

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As I turn 50, I know without a doubt, the best part of my life is and always will be our family – being your father. I savor every big moment and each little moment. The big events, like your Bat Mitzvahs and your graduations are magical. But I also love the concerts, the football games, visiting each of you at college, and texting you in anticipation of our next get-together.  That will never change.

As I turn 50, I know without a doubt, the best part of my life is and always will be our family

But Morgan and Sydney you are 18 and Ashley, you are 21. All three of you are all adults now.  You’re not babies. I can’t fix everything for you. And while I can guide you, I can’t live your life for you.

I know all three of you get stressed about entering the next phase of your life, but as your dad, I don’t want you to live your life constantly worrying. I don’t want stress to freeze you because you’ll never make progress.

Instead, I want you to accept and understand that no matter how lucky you are in life, everyday life is hard. There will always be new challenges or something that feels overwhelming at the moment.

Professionally there will be roadblocks. Like my own experiences, they will be unique to you. 

Trust your instincts. Trust your passion. Trust your work ethic. Compete with yourself to be the best version of yourself. Always do your best and give that max effort. Only then, can you live  with the results. Even still, there will be challenges. I can’t solve them for you, but I have tried to give you the formula to solve them for yourself. 

In your personal lives, you will also face challenges. They may seem insurmountable at times.

The biggest challenge your mother and I had was starting our family. Your mother grew up always knowing she wanted to be a mom – believing motherhood was her purpose. I came from a close family and always wanted children as well. After trying for two years, the idea that we might not be able to have children was daunting. We turned to IVF, which was a difficult process, especially for your mom. Our first cycle failed. In our second cycle, we miscarried. Then, our third and fourth cycles failed. We put in five embryos on our fifth try, and Ashely, you are the only one that took. You, Ashley, made me a father, but Sydney and Morgan, you two, who arrived together after one additional IVF cycle, made us a family. 

While the challenges you face in life may be different from mine, I want you to know each one of you can handle whatever life throws at you. 

Each one of you is special!

Ashley, you are super organized and practical, and you have a genuinely good heart. If someone gives you a job, you’ll always get it done no matter what! You are a very hard worker, and you’re not entitled. 

Morgan, you are the most resilient child I have ever known. You will go through fire to succeed. You are so committed and dedicated, and you see the good in everyone. 

And Sydney, you are the most loyal person. If someone wrongs your sister, you feel physically hurt. And you are so street smart. You are quick-witted and always know what is going on. We could drop you on a deserted island, and you would manage to find your way home.  

Also, I  am most proud that all three of you treat people well and always do the right thing.  

Nine years ago, when I lost my dad, your grandfather, you three were young. You were at overnight camp, and we drove up to tell you the news. That’s when you saw me cry for the first time. 

Marty with his father

You three said to your mom and me, “Can we come home? We want to be with you.”

In one of the toughest moments of my life, the three of you, as little girls, were there for me. You got me through it. That’s who you are; that’s who you have always been. 

As you enter adulthood,  I want you to know time is going to accelerate. It seemed like my dad turned 50, and then a weekend went by, and all of a sudden, he was 72 and sick.  Time is going to fly. That’s why I want you to live life one day at a time, one foot in front of the other. You can only control the way you work, the way you treat others  and the way you pursue your goals. Sometimes you’ll get what you want, and other times you will miss the mark. And that’s okay. 

As each one of you continues to grow into independent young adults, I want you to remember that no matter the challenge, you can handle it. You are capable all on your own, but whenever you need love and support – just like I did when I lost my dad – we all always have each other. 

Chase your dreams and enjoy every day. Because I realized all that I want on my birthday and every other day is the same thing my dad wanted. And that is for my kids to be happy. 

Thank you for being the greatest gifts of my life. I love you. 


Marty Shagrin
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