Childrearing

F. Scott Fitzgerald Tells 11-Year-Old Daughter, ‘Don’t Worry About Dolls, Boys, Parents’

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F. Scott Fitzergald with Zelda and ScottieAmerican writer F. Scott Fitzgerald battled many demons in his day. The father of one struggled openly with alcoholism, a schizophrenic wife, and the overarching suspicion that he was never really talented. The American literary canon clearly proves otherwise, but given what the great scribe endured, he had quite a few life lessons to impart to his 11-year-old daughter Scottie.

At the end of a letter to his little girl dated in 1933, Fitzgerald created a list of “things to worry about,” “things to not worry about,” and “things to think about.” Although there is no numbered hierarchy to these concerns, he tells Scottie not to concern herself with “popular opinion,” “growing up,” “the past,” “dolls,” or even “boys.” He also adds “parents” and “anyone getting ahead of you” to the list.

He encourages Scottie to concentrate on other attributes like “courage,” “cleanliness,” “efficiency,” and “horsemanship.” He also suggests that she put a great deal of thought into her scholastic life as well as this emphatic question:

“Am I trying to make my body a useful instrument or am I neglecting it?”

Wise words from a father who managed to get so plastered during prohibition that even other avid drinkers and moonshine enthusiasts looked at he and his wife Zelda and thought that they had had a little too much. Nevertheless, Fitzgerald’s encouragement to his little girl to consider interests other than boys, dollies, and what everyone thought she should be doing reads surprisingly modern for a father of his era. Even a papa from the roaring 20s wanted more for his little girl than convention allowed.

(photo: telegraph.co.uk)