With Father’s Day just around the corner and me already well on my way to laying myself bare for all the world to see, I thought I would offer the first of several posts directed at “dads” and fatherhood – albeit with a bit of trepidation.
My dad died on August 18, 1997 – just shy of his 72nd birthday. Why then, to this day, nearly 15 years later (has it really been 15 years?!?), do I still find myself working tirelessly, often in arenas well beyond my comfort zone, hoping that he will be pleased with me and my achievements or, better yet, that he will actually be proud of me?
More importantly, why when I fall short of meeting the standards of excellence that I establish for performing and completing those tasks (or, worse yet, what I perceive would have been his expectations of me) do I still find myself grappling with the same feelings of hurt, inadequacy and even, on occasion, shame that I did when I was a young boy?
The answer is simple: I am convinced that, at the end of the day, irrespective of how often, if ever, they verbalize it or whether they always act in a manner we deem to be consistent with it, a child’s overriding desire in life is to please (and, at all costs, avoid disappointing) their dad – and to make him proud of them.
Secondarily, they want/need to know that their dad’s love for them is sufficiently unconditional and non-judgmental that it transcends (i.e., will not be withdrawn because of) an occasional (or more than occasional) misstep or transgression and that it is capable of forgiveness – not unlike the love of their Heavenly Father, which too often seems abstract and far away.
As dads, we fail to recognize, nurture and preserve this fundamental longing of our children’s hearts at considerable peril to our and their spirits. There are simply too many means of communication at our disposal to suggest that we don’t have the time or the “right” opportunity to let our children (young and old) know that we are proud of them and that they are loved – unconditionally.
Now would be as good a time as any.