So, parenting is hard, eh? Brutal.
Some days, you gotta wonder if all your efforts matter. If you matter.
Some days, we as parents mess up, screw up, yell too much, micro manage, over-parent, under-parent, can’t-play-dressy-up-even-one-more-time, or use the screen as a babysitter in an all together unsatisfying way.
Our love for them.
I watch this over and over. I love watching to see how the baby calms to his voice and looks for his love.
I also love watching the shock of Michael Junior, as he revels in the power of the love in his voice. How it changes his daughter’s experience.
Us parents tend to minimize our role in our kids lives.
Parents are big time important to their kids.
I listen to kids (many in their 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s) talk about the hurt they have with parents who were distant or absent or hurtful. Kids that can go back and remember a single hurtful line that was said to them, that echoes in their head and pulls the strings in their life. I listen to kids (completely disguised in adult’s bodies!) talk about how the love of a parent has sustained and goes with them…how they hear the encouragement of a parent to get through things like retirement, letting their own children become adults, or grieving the death of that parent.
Parents are important…even if those kids don’t let us know that.
Kids often won’t let us know how important we are to them. They hide it.
I was talking with a friend recently who has a 17 year old son…this son isn’t showing much initiative anywhere in his life, grumbles when he is supposed to help around the house, assumes he can have the car whenever he wants it (and is horrified he is expected to ask for it), too many video games, picks on his little sister mercilessly, and isn’t really working hard on his studies…generally not living up to his potential.
Not unlike many typical teenagers, really.
His dad invited him out to supper to talk about the general state of things. This son didn’t want to go. He wanted to get this conversation over quick…didn’t want to hang with his dad. But he didn’t have a choice. His dad was going to invest in this kid, whether he seemed to want it or not. Time to value the kid, leave the other kids at home…one on one time with a rare dinner out. A father-son date…mandatory.
There was some great conversation about sports and upcoming events over the ribs, baked potato and caesar salad.. Some laughter about what was happening on the TV in the corner of the restaurant. Some reminiscing about old times.
But when the conversation came around to the issues, the son denied not trying hard, had excuses for why he was doing what he did, and minimized his actions. He accused his dad of being a lousy dad. And he may or may not have outright called his dad a jerk.
The dad thought he had failed. That somehow he hadn’t done it right. That he hadn’t found a way to connect with the son and blew it.
But a funny thing happened.
In the days following, in amongst the normalness of all the chaos of the household, the son spontaneously played a game with his sister at the kitchen table. He actually invited her to help him clean up supper one evening. He asked for the car, and casually dropped the fact to his dad that he was busy studying for a test.
That, folks, is the power of a father.
The kid isn’t perfect, and more conversations will be needed. And on the surface, the dinner out felt uncomfortable and difficult. But the change was real and powerful…a kid, no matter what the age, responds to the sound of a loving parent.
Maybe not right away, maybe not visibly, maybe not giving you the satisfaction of knowing it. The love we give to our kids comes from imperfect, messed-up parents who have their own issues and insecurities and is delivered with flawed, ill-timed and poorly delivered.
But the love we have for our kids has to be spoken–out loud, directly, with the best we got…even if that sometimes doesn’t seem enough. And sometimes, as dads, you may wonder if you can do it, wonder how to do it (especially if you didn’t experience it). It may make you uncomfortable, feel like you want to crawl out of your skin, and feel woefully inadequate. Figure out how to take the courageous step to tell your kid you love him anyways. It matters.
The loving voice of a parent matters profoundly to a child.
Always. Trust me.