In 1988, I sat down with my three girls (6 years, 4 years, and 6 months) and asked them “Do you know I love you?” They all, except for the youngest (she just spit up) said, “Yes daddy, we know you love us.” So I asked, “How do you know I love you?” This is what they said:
From the 6 year old: (she was adamant about writing her response herself. Ignore the spelling mistakes) He helps me get well. He buys me stiff. He gets me foob. And because I can see the special love you give me. and you kiss me and you hug me and because you get me nice birthday presente, you get me my dinner and get me a drink. Send notes when you are away (this was pre texting and pre email). Let me go on a walk and spend night at Ashleys. You got me pupcake (that was a basset hound), 2 fish and a crab.
From the 4 year old: (She dictated to me) you have a great big heart, helps me clean my room, buy curtains for mommy, take me to the tire swing, take good pictures.
Julie, my wife, was sitting there at the time so I asked her, “Do you know I love you?” She replied, “Yes, I know you love me.” I asked, “How do you know?” She listed three things, only three things, and was very specific and forthright in her response. She said, “You help me clean my room, you buy curtains for me and you take the kids to the tire swing without me.”
The lists I had in my head, that proved my love for my wife and kids, were different than their lists. My list had things like being a responsible employee, not spending selfishly or foolishly (unless it was hunting related), and teaching them values that would serve them for a lifetime. My lists made perfect sense to adults like us but they were far from the kids lists. Now I recognize that my list was certainly contributing to their security and stability, but it was not making them feel loved in their young lives.
I learned that some of the things I did to simply pass the time, or get us to the next important time, were in fact THE IMPORTANT TIME. Taking the kids to the tire swing was my idea of killing time while Julie was preparing dinner. I missed the fact that the trip to the tire swing and the time we spent there was THE most important time to them. I totally missed it and in hindsight I missed a ton of those times throughout their young lives.
We (Julie and I) aren’t any different than most of the parents we know. We have all missed a boat load of God-given moments with the most valuable treasures we have. Let’s all ask God to reveal to us, remind us, and forgive us when we have blown it. I believe that kind of prayer and reflection is what enables us grow in wisdom.
These days I am just now feeling mature enough to be a dad. Of course, now the kids are grown, off, and married. Now, we’re trying to use the wisdom we’ve gained from the years to be the best grandparents we can be.
Have a great day. I welcome your comments. God bless, Matt.