Many parents underestimate their value. Because of their own fears, insecurities, and issues, they get wounded and hurt – then they pull away and retreat into their own little world. The problem is, kids need you. They absolutely need you to stand firm – no matter how hard it is, or how hurt you are.
Of course, parents are people too. As people, they have all the same issues as everyone else. But their role as a parent is so much bigger than themselves – all parents need to stay in the game – no matter the cost. It is no longer a choice.
“It is no longer a choice.”
The other day I was talking to a friend who was sharing some struggles regarding his adult children. I listened, I didn’t try to fix, but I did make sure I understood the struggle. While I don’t have adult kids, I was once an adult who needed his Dad very much. I had done virtually everything I could to run away from my parents. I was obnoxious. I was a punk. I turned my back on their morals and standards. I didn’t call them very much. But I still needed them – especially my Dad.
I was going through a terrible divorce and I was scared, lonely, and broken. I kept reaching out to my Dad, but he would not/could not make time for me. Several times he stood me up for lunch appointments. This only multiplied the feelings of rejection and hopelessness. I know he felt inadequate. I know he was busy. I also know that he had his own carp to deal with. Oh, but I so needed his time and reassurance.
“hurting people hurt“
As a paramedic, I often treat people who are very obnoxious, disgusting, and even violent. Many are drunk, acting stupid, and/or are mentally ill. Others are very weak and broken. Because of their emotional or mental state, they create real problems for caring for their needs. Often we need to get the police involved. They are not just a danger to themselves, but to us also. But none of this releases us from providing caring and compassionate aid to them. Even when they call us names, fight with us, or refuse to cooperate – they still need our care. They spit, hit, bite, and call us every name in the book. Because we are on the job, in uniform, and there to serve, we don’t stop until the patient is cared for.
It is a recognized fact, “hurting people hurt” others and themselves.
Kids are similar – they always will be. Being a Dad is the same. Your kids will do dumb things. They will rebel. They will even think you are a stupid old man. But they will always need you – and you, Dad, need to keep loving them. No matter what. You have to express your love in words and actions. Sure, give them space and respect for their growing worldview, but keep letting them know how much you love them. Set boundaries, but never ever stop loving – even if that is from an emotional or geographical distance.
Will kids disappoint? Of course. Will kids disrespect your love? Absolutely. Will your kids push back and show contempt for some of your most cherished values? Indeed. But none of this releases you from loving them.
Like a Fallen World, God is so crazy about us, He was willing to risk it all to walk among us on this earth. Even when he knew he’d be beaten, spit upon, and nailed to a cross, he continued to love. This is the kind of love your kids need from you. Never get so mad that you turn your back on your kids. Always keep an open door, always let them know how crazy about them you are. And always respect their choices – no matter how wrong they are.
And as if this isn’t too hard already, I have one more step for you to make.
Reach out to your kids and apologize.
You heard me. Apologize. Most of the stuff your kids are wrestling with are a direct result of your parenting.
“WHAT!? Why those ungrateful little punks.”
I know. I know! You gave them everything. You sacrificed your life, your dreams, your plans – your youth. You gave them everything you are, and everything you could afford. But you need to take one more step. I promise. Do this one thing, and the walls will come crumbling down.
“Go to your kids and tell them you are sorry.”
Go to your kids and tell them you are sorry. Tell them you are sorry for all the parenting mistakes you made. For getting mad over stupid things, for not paying enough attention at times, for being to arbitrary, petty, and unfair. Tell them you are sorry for being human, for getting wrapped up in your own discouragement and depression. Say you’re sorry for sometimes putting your job above them, for not loving their Mom more, and for that thing you did (you know the one – the big thing that no one will talk about).
If you got divorced, apologize for it – even if it was the right thing to do. If you moved cross-country, and destroyed all their friendships, say you’re sorry. Apologize for things you had no control over. Apologize for your mistakes. Apologize for poor choices, unfair choices, and choices that could have gone either way.
In other words, what I’m saying, is to remove the ammo from their rebellion. As the leader of the family, you made choices – little ones, big ones, unintentional ones – that affected your kids forever. Take ownership, apologize, and let them know you care more about them than you do about your pride.
This will not make you look weak in their eyes. Pride and arrogance make us look weak. Humility and transparency give us strength.
This is the cry of every adult child I’ve ever met. They want to be close to their parents – to their Dads in particular. But their fathers refuse to come out from behind their walls of protection. They hide in fear because they don’t want to be hurt any more. But these walls are too big for the kids to tear down, get around, or climb over. Only you, Dad, can come out in the open.
You think you’re tough? Ok, show us how strong you really are. Drop your weapons, drop your defenses, and come out running to us. Embrace us. Tell us again, like you did when we were three years old – tell us how crazy you are about us. You will never regret it. All of us need a hero Daddy.
“Perfect love casts out fear.”
Be a hero to your kids – you have nothing to lose.