There's a Better Solution than Telling Your Kids You Love Them

[This is one of my posts about the life of my Dad. Please see a list of the others at the bottom of this page.]

My Dad is dying of cancer. We found out a couple of months ago, and it has been very, very hard. It is hard to think of the future without him, and it's hard to see how he has already been affected by the disease. After we first found out, I felt like I was in a fog a couldn't find my way out. I still feel like I don't know how to deal with it very well, but the fog began to lift a bit when my wife helped me to realize something: the reason I have so much to mourn in all of this is because I HAVE A GREAT DAD.

After we learned the diagnosis, my wife and I seemed to take turns on which one of us was emotional on a particular day and which one was more stable. I've certainly had the majority of the emotional days, but during one of the times that our roles switched, she was able to name her own feelings in a way that also summed up much of why I have loved him so deeply for all of these years. She said, "I have just always felt loved by him. I've never had to be any certain way, or do anything, but I've known that he loves me."

It's a perfect description. As I was growing up, if there was something that I could do well, he enjoyed it, and I knew that he loved me. If there was something that I stunk at, I knew that he loved me. Simply by the way that he has lived his life, particularly in his constant willingness to always sacrifice of himself first for the benefit of the rest of us, I have always known his love for me.

I wish that I would hear a parenting expert, especially in addressing fathers, encourage parents to live their lives that way. Okay, surely there are some who do. Yet we hear so often about the importance of parents telling their kids that they love them. That's fine, but it doesn't cut it. A better solution is my Dad's way: Parents, live your everyday lives in a way that your kids know, in the deepest parts of who they are, that you love them. Regardless of what happens, they know that you will love them. When they succeed, they know, and when they are dismal failures, they know, "I am loved."

This has very little to do with words. On the negative side, our words can do serious damage to any efforts to convey this to our kids, but on the positive side they are inadequate to ingrain it deeply enough in our children's souls. The best that they can do is to reinforce the message that we send with our lives.

I don't think that I've ever heard my Dad say a word about how to be a successful father, but I know. Because I have one.

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