Dad Writes Over 690 Inspiring Lunch Notes to Daughter to Ease Her Anxiety at School: 'Be Present'
"To me, it was my way of saying 'I'm here,' without actually sitting next to her at lunch," says Dr. Chris Yandle of writing notes to his daughter Addison
It was August 2017, just a few days after Addison Yandle had started the fourth grade, when her parents noticed that something seemed off.
"She was more reserved than normal, and she was anxious about going to school," her father, Dr. Chris Yandle, tells PEOPLE. "We'd later learn that she was being bullied by a supposed friend of hers."
Wanting to do something to ease her anxiety, Chris, 39, decided to write Addison a lunch note, which read, "Be nice to others. Not everyone will look like you. Learn to spot the unique and special things in other people. You have the power to change someone's life!"
"In my mind, I thought having a note from dad scribbled on her sandwich bag might make her smile or brighten her day," he explains of the note. "To me, it was my way of saying 'I'm here,' without actually sitting next to her at lunch."
But what Chris didn't know then was that his notes would take on a life of their own.
Since that day, the father of two has continued to write Addison, now 13, daily notes with inspirational sayings and quotes. He has written a total of 691 notes and in 2018 published a book on them called Lucky Enough, which is set to be released in Korean later this year.
"When I shared that first note, I never imagined this or that anyone would pay attention. I thought I would fade into the background as a regular dad who does something nice for his daughter," he says. "What's happened this year is beyond my wildest expectations."
"I've said this from the beginning: I knew I would never be a bestselling author," he continues. "A book of notes from a dad to his daughter isn't going to sell a lot of books, unfortunately. But if it helps just one parent connect with their kid, then that's a bestselling book to me."
Before he starting writing notes, Chris was just six months into a new job, for which he had moved his family from Georgia to Louisiana.
Prior to that, the father of two had uprooted his family several times due to his career in college athletics communications.
"I hadn't forgiven myself for losing my previous job and forcing our family to move home to Louisiana. I hated myself for it," he admits. "With each note I wrote, I was hoping I'd hate myself less because I was trying to be a dad again and help Addison's anxiety with a new school."
At first, Chris says he "wasn't sure" if Addison was reading his notes. But when his daughter reminded him to write her one on a morning they were running late, Chris knew he had made an impact.
"It has definitely strengthened our relationship," he explains. "Writing these messages and potentially helping Addison build her character and her morals, that's more important than any grade she brings home."
"I'm a proud #GirlDad and she loves when I am able to drive her to school and we can spend a few extra minutes together. We do homework together at night," he adds. "Things might change in high school and college, but for now, I couldn't ask for anything more."
It's not just his relationship with his daughter that the notes have positively impacted.
"After four years of notes, I've learned a tremendous amount about myself, and I've learned to finally forgive myself because we wouldn't be having these daily conversations had it not been for losing my job," he says. "Our relationship would be completely different than what it is today."
He's also made a difference for people around the world, as he continues to share his story on social media and through his book, which Chris says "contains the day's note, an anecdote or story behind the message and writing prompts throughout to help parents and kids connect."
"Honestly, the book was never the intention. When I first starting writing to Addison, I thought it would last a few weeks, maybe a few months, and she'd tell me to stop doing it or that I would forget to do it," he explains. "After a few weeks of sharing her messages online with family and friends, the response from the notes and the messages behind them was overwhelming."
Today, as Addison prepares to enter the 8th grade, Chris hopes he will continue to be the father his children need and that his teen daughter will grow into "a strong, confident woman."
"Our world is difficult enough as it is, but to be a woman in this world is exponentially [more] difficult," he says. "We all will fail at times and we will all face battles as we grow older, but my hope is that she trusts herself and is the best version of herself."
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And while this started solely for Addison, Chris says he also plans on doing something similar with his son, Jackson.
"I'll be writing messages to Jackson as he starts middle school," he explains. "He's been asking me for a year when I would start writing to him, and initially, I wanted to have something separate from Addison. However, I will be doing the same for Jackson because ultimately I want my kids to be better than me."
"Our kids don't care about how much money we make or what my fancy job title may be. They care that we are there for them and that we are listening," he adds. "I've told Addison many times that we have two ears and one mouth for a reason, and we should learn to listen twice as much as we speak. Listen to your kids and be present. That's all that matters to them."
Those interested in purchasing Chris' book, Lucky Enough, can do so here.