Content from Fathers Helping Fathers
“That which does not kill you makes you stronger” is something Nietzsche told us. Saying it another way: “understand the value of hard work.” We need to think about this as we think about the blessings we have…particularly those we have that we choose not to share.
On my way to pick my older son up from basketball practice, I took some time to do something many of us with older children forget to do. Spend time listening to our younger children. So I asked Myles [our younger son] if he remembered me telling him I was proud of him. Myles is one of those typical young, quiet, and ingratiating younger sibling who gets lost in the shadows of the first born. Myles does well in school. He makes good grades because he wants to, not because there is an extrinsic reward for this. So imagine my shock when this 11-year-old tells me, he can’t remember dad telling him I was proud of him?
I know I’d told him that. I know I’d told him that often. But as is often the case, we get so absorbed in something, and or situations, much of what is going on revolves around our older kids, and the younger kids think they are afterthoughts. As parents, we love our children. We deal with their mistakes as they as they endure ours. But it’s hard trying to be fair. It’s hard trying to get them to understand that we are still learning this, and they are the unfortunate recipients of our experimentation. We love them all the same, but we love them differently. How can we not? They are different.
Taking the time to tell one of your children you are proud of them may not seem like much to you, but imagine the intrinsic feeling they might have. I know, for Myles, I could see him listening to how I explained ‘why’ I was proud of him. I told him how I was sorry that sometimes it seems too much time gets taken up with his brother, but asked him to understand that when Jeremy is gone, then it will be just him. But dads, don’t wait too late. They need to hear how you feel about them. Take time with each of them. For those of you who have more than two, it requires more and more effort. But that’s what we signed up for, when the choice was made, or accepted that another child would be in the house.
I explained to Myles that we decided to have another child so Jeremy wouldn’t be alone. Myles lives up to that decision far beyond anything his mom or I had anticipated. He helps us level the playing field. He’s one of Jeremy’s biggest cheerleader, as well as one of the most astute critics in our home. Yet, he didn’t remember dad saying he was proud of him.
When was the last time you told one of your children you were proud of them? Now is a time we count our blessings, and what better blessing to be thankful than our children. Don’t get me wrong. I know there could be some pain out there, but if you are truly honest with yourself, you are better because of your children. You have learned more about who you are because of who you tried to help them become. And for those of you still trying to live your dream through your children, I have one word. STOP. It’s there life. We need to get on with ours.
Our older son wants to play basketball at a level I cannot comprehend. That’s not my dream, so he has no problem. But one of my dreams for him is to be able to take care of himself; to show kindness to others; and make us proud. I want him to understand that hard work helps him, and obstacles are just opportunities for him to learn to believe in himself. And he has the promise that I believe in him.
I’m not sure what your plans are for Thanksgiving, but I have a suggestion. Find time to do something with each of your children individually. And if for some reason, you have a family that approximates the size of some sports team, then plan a day for each child between now and the end of the year. And here’s something I want you to do for yourself. Go see the movie “Chicken Little.” If you want to understand why believing in your kids is important…see the movie. If you want to understand how we become stronger by learning to believe when the world tells us we shouldn’t…see the movie! If you want to make your relationship with your son and you stronger…see the movie!! And once you’ve seen the movie? Talk about it…it’s destined to make you a better husband, a better man…and a better father.
This might mean you might have to call, email, or drive to talk. But at least see the movie, and maybe talk will come later. Dads need to learn how to do this. It’s only after we learn to do this, can our sons learn to do this. And once our sons learn to do this, it will be easier for them to talk to a future wife, and children. And think what a wonderful Thanksgiving that could be…a family giving thanks for just that: a family. Believe me…it won’t kill you, but definitely make your stronger.