The last few times I have been out with my little baby girls who are not grown yet, just 5 & 10 years old, I have had constant thoughts about the power of the father daughter relationship and I wonder how I am really doing to build that foundation with my own daughters and how they will feel about us when they are grown. My boys are now 20 and 23 so those days are long over. I know where I stand and what I did right and where I came up short. Even so , those are boys. That is a whole different animal. The boys are more resilient when it comes to our relationship. Not quite as sensitive about mistakes I have made and seem to be able to focus on good times and remember what was really strong about our relationship and still is.
For example even with all my mistakes and problems when my boys were little, I still am very happy with how our relationship is today. They had to witness some not so pretty times in my life. The tail end of my treatment for addiction was occurring right in front of their eyes. They had to go through a divorce as toddlers those horrible times when I am dropping them off at mom’s house and they grab my ankle tight and scream ” I don’t want you to go” with fountains of tears pouring out of their little eyes. I remember more tear filled drives home alone during those times then not. I had to decide what I was going to do about the situation to try to preserve our future. The last thing I wanted was for them to get older and have their mom start rambling on about what a failure and addict I was when they were little.
So in that case I decided that there were two things I could do to minimize the potential for that since I could not erase the truth.The first thing I decided to do was as soon as they were old enough to understand I sat them down for a family meeting, just us. I poured out all the dirt. I told them of my struggles, how I was dealing with it and even the consequences I had suffered as a result the problems. I did not sugar coat anything but took full responsibility for it all.
It did not make anything go away, but looking back I was teaching them a valuable lesson about ownership, about humility and most of all about forgiveness. There were times they heard and saw things that a 4 year and 6-year-old should not see. After owning it all I asked them for forgiveness, and told them what my plan of action was to try to prevent that from occurring again. To my surprise the response was better than I thought. I felt and still feel a sense of respect that I earned from them, more so now that they are older for coming clean and owning my own behavior.
I still wish they did not have to see me like I was at my lowest going to rehab and all that jazz. I was a sight for sore eyes. However I will say that to this day neither of them has ever brought it up or tried to use it against me. Better yet their mother could not do that either. I spoiled her plan to talk bad about me the rest of their lives, by talking bad about myself first. That took the wind out of her sails for that plan anyhow. The other thing I decided to do after the asking for forgiveness, was I decided to insert something unique, like a special thing that was just between us to replace the negative. I just wanted them to love me and know how very ,much I loved them.
I began making a point of doing something I never experienced as a child, something to reassure them of my love for them even during the trials they had been through. I decide to go against the ” man grain” and be a super affectionate dad, and made a vow that every time I saw them or left them I would hug them, kiss them, and make them look me in the eye as I told them I loved them. All through middle and high school that’s how it was. I was not obnoxious about, you should know.
I did not cramp their style or embarrass them in front of their friends, I acted in a way that was appropriate for their ages. Instead of a full body hug and big kiss on the cheek in high school we had “code” for our ” I love You’s ” and our giant hugs.
In high school when I was around their friends or dropping them off at an event where kids could hear and see, we had this kind of standing half- hug- half body bump thing that basketball players were doing all the time to take the place of me on my knees with my arms wrapped around them hugging them. lol.
The ” I love you” became ” you too” . So when we were leaving each other there was a body bump and a “me too”. To my great pleasure as they got older and out of high school our communicating that we loved each other did not fade, it got stronger. To this day every single time I talk to the boys on the phone we say the words. No matter where they are, out-of-state for the military, or my youngest son may be in any of the 50 states at any given time due to his career as a professional rodeo bull rider, at the conclusion of our call they always say ” Ok love you” before they hang up. Always. It may not seem like a big deal but believe me after sitting across the table years before pouring my shame and problems out to them, I was not sure if they would want to even claim me as their dad.
Oh How Things Change With Girls!
So I have these two little girls you know . I love them so very much and they are sweet girls. They are so agreeable with almost everything I say. I mean just the other day my 10-year-old agreed via a ” Pinky Promise” that there will be ” No dates til 28!” What a sweetheart. I know she will stick to it too. I mean we all know little girls do not lie. Especially to their daddy. I am so relieved that I do not have to start going out on dates with her and any boy until she is 28! What a peace of mind to know that..
So with the girls it is a different scenario because they are so very different then the boys. So very sensitive and so open to hurt in their heart. Ever since those girls were born into this world I have felt like those two are my actual heart , divided in two pieces in the form of a couple little girls. Everything that happens to them happens to me. Every time they feel pain, I do too. I try to avoid any extra pain for them as much as possible.
Lets just say it is a whole lot different then when the boys were young, they would almost weekly walk in the door from school or playing outside with a new injury. Sprained ankles, chipped teeth , I recall Jesse with two nose breaks before second grade. It never ended. I can picture hearing one of them yell from their room;
” Dad, my ankle is purple and swollen like 2x normal size and my little toe is broke”
My response? ” There is some ice in the cooler, did you do your homework yet?”
And Life With Girls Now….
Not so much with my girls. The other day after school my oldest was eating a sandwich and I guess she accidentally put a little pepper or onion or something she normally does not eat on it. Not knowing this I walked by the table and noticed her eyes were red so I stopped to find out what was going on.
But then when I noticed a tear drop coming from my angel’s eye I lost it…
I was like ” Emily what is it just tell me, did some boy at school say something to you?
Just give me his name honey don’t you worry that pretty little face .. I’ll teach someone what its like when you make my daughter cry!
It did occur to me a little later that my responses to my sons back in the day varied slightly from how it goes with my daughter.
So yes there are major differences in the way dads react and think of the different ways of boys and girls. Even so I still carried on the tradition of the hug and kiss and ” I love you” each time we part ways and I will tell you this, If I forget once to say It as we part ways, my 10 year old will call me out on it. She does this by repeating what I should have said until I catch on and actually say it..like this
” umm dad? I love you Emmy” then repeat and repeat until I say ” I love you Emmy” . You know what? I am proud that she reminds me. It means it means something to her. Something I started as a parent is actually turning out good! Even in the midst of storms and trials little things like making sure you have told your children you love them is so critical. it just does not happen enough , at least in my world.
Now before you think I am some kind of monster by the way I blew my son’s sprained ankle off but wa so concerned about my daughter’s tear-you should know a few things before you start accusing me of favoritism with my sweet angels over the boys.
1- When I realized Jesse’s ankle was truly sprained or broke, I personally got him ice. Also, I gave him an extra day to wash my truck as that was his day to do it. So you see I have a soft heart for all.
2, You did not see just how BIG of a tear was coming from Emily’s eye. You would have panicked too. Honestly if it was not for me taking her for ice cream and finishing her homework for her that night, she told me herself she would still be bawling! I had to do something.
Well, at least they all say they love me. That is worth it all.
So as I end this I want to share a thought I had a month or so ago during of those times I was just sitting at the park watching the girls play. It has not left me and I think I am going to do this not only for my children but possibly offer it as a service to families down the road who just like the idea. It is likely something you will immediately gravitate towards, or you may just shrug your shoulders and feel like ” whatever floats your boat” ….
I truly think this idea would and could change and help a lot of people when the time comes in our lives when we will be forced to leave our children on this earth as we age out and expire into eternity. I know that I am for sure going to do it for my kids.
Over the years in my work, I have been involved in my share of family tragedies and deaths of parents, some just were old and died and some taken suddenly. The one thing I notice that is always present during these times is families talking to the siblings about how much their mom or dad loved them and cared about them. Sadly, I have sensed doubt in eyes of the children sometimes who left the last time with dad on bad terms, or maybe it just seemed like daddy like the older brother better so the younger sibling lives his life believing he was 2nd best son to his father.
Worse yet on occasion a sudden death of the father in the family will occur tight in the middle of a huge argument between two sides of the family and they are not on speaking terms. I have seen more than not at funerals or get together after a death children thinking back to their childhood days trying to think of some good thing to say about how much pop loved all the kids, as evidenced by the time he _______________ ( you fill in the blank)
The problem is often there just are not a lot of good memories fresh on your mind when an older man like a dad dies. Perhaps like my grandfather who loved me dearly and took me everywhere all the time while he was well, things changed a bit when illness set in. With Alzheimer’s or any sickness the elderly suffer from near end of life, you may hear your beloved father look you in the eye and tell you he has always thought of you as a jackass your entire life! What then?
Or as the daughter is trying to have a last conversaation with daddy in the nursing home before he passes away, maybe he will look at her and tell her she is a no good whore. That she only got married because she got ” Knocked up”!
You think I exaggerate? I am likely making light of the situaiton. In almost every single nursing home around the world, there are dads who are on their way out who have all nbut lost their minds. During the sibling last month seeing him alive they are more likely to hear what a dissappointment they have been or be cursed at than be told hwo much they are loved. So considering all these points and also considering what my girls would be thinking if I was taken to heaven suddenly? Howcan I be sure they will remember hjow proud I am of them and of their accomplishemnts? I cannot. But I could!
So here is the idea I am considering with a partner. We think it would be really neat if dads, or moms could call us up when they are in their golden years or maybe in some cases when their health is going south and they can make sure that when they can no longer express their love for their children and other loved ones ( or in my case just in case something happened to me unexpectedly) .
We believe that children especially at anby age would benefit in a huge way after losing a parent to click a cd of their mom or dad telling them of their love for them and reminding them of some of the special times they had and try to encourage the family to remember the good stuff instead of only going through the mourning process with not much positive going on in that process. One neat feature is that we would get all the contact information of the immediate family when we made the tape and ask the persons social worker, caregiver, pastor , or others to make us aware when a condition worsens for a patient, so we can be ready to share the tape with the family at just time.
Usually, as in the movie The Ultimate Gift with James Garner, any tapes after death are about wills and momey or who gets what. This often makes things even worse during an already sad time. For people like myself who just want my kids to be able to hear my voice and see my face again if something happened to me while I was young, this could be an even more powerful tool. When a child loses a parent unexpectedly there is an emotional and physical loss that is tremendous. No more tucking in or night time hugs or taking them to school or contact period.
To be able to put the tape in every day if need be for awhile for a 10 year old would be a huge comfort. To hear the same words in the same voice from your daddy telling you how proud he is and how much he loves them. In the cases of Christians the parent would emphasize the fact that eternity is awaiting all of them and eternity together is the long term plan. The hope something like this could provide a child wouldl be very helpful in my opinion. We all have seen people who have lost a loved one go and try and find something, anything to hold that reminds them of the loved one who died. That is evidence that there is a desire to be close and to be near to that loved one. What better way than to hear directly fromt them?
Anyhow, If anyone has any interest on being involved from a business stamdpoint, I would be open to talking to a private businessman or woman who would like to partner with me on this as I have several other responsibilities including the entire team at Dont Label My Kid! and all the projects we are working on, the blogs and magazine and all that needs continous effort that goes into these things.
I dont need any contacts for dispensing the product and getting the word out as I am connected to hundreds of nursing and retirement homes where much of this would be focused on. I would be interested strictly in a partner as a silent partner / investor.
I hope you all consider what your childrens needs would be if something were to happen to you. As parents I know you would do anything to ease their pain. I know it is not pleasent to think about but it is reality. We are not promised tomorrow .
Look at it like fire insurance, you have to get it but hope you never need it.
Send any inquiries or feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and if you are interested in partnering with usin the way I mentioned, you can call me on my cell at 386-675-7549.
God Bless everyone- Have a great week!