A Call to Relentless Affirmation
“It seemed as though my kids would never grow up”, said no one ever.
Take it from a seasoned parent (and now grandparent), to say that our kids grow up too quickly would seem the “understatement of the century”. We may not come to that realization until we get a little farther along in the parenting process, but when we do, even during those bewildering and sometimes maddening teenage years, the reality that our kids are growing up and growing out, and that our roles in their lives are shifting as well, can give rise to that internal voice that screams “WAIT!”
Soon enough, that son or daughter thinks they have outgrown your “hovering over them” and what were natural, open expressions of welcomed affection aren’t necessary any more and are experienced as actually kind of embarrassing.
Of course each child is different, and the above depiction may seem a little extreme, but nonetheless, I encourage you to not back down or be reluctant to continue to “hover”, and definitely not to withhold words and expressions of love and affection. As much as it may make them feel uncomfortable and as much as they may resist, little do they know how much they still need it, and quite honestly how much they will later appreciate it.
I was recently in a conversation regarding the significance of fathers, and the man I was speaking with shared the following story; He was on the phone speaking with his daughter and son-in-law, and after his daughter left the conversation he continued to speak with the son-in-law and later concluded by saying “I love you, son.” He said there was a long pause on the other end before the son finally said “I love you too”. A few weeks later when they reconnected, the son-in-law asked if he remembered the conversation and said this: “After we hung up, as if I was a child again, I went into my closet, sat down, and wept like I hadn’t in a long time”. The man replied, “What made you do that?”, to which the son answered “my father died when I was 16 years old, and since then I had not heard those words from a father, “I love you son”.
At the sound of those words from a father, a well of emotions surfaced in his own heart. There was a remembering and reliving of a time that he longed for, a reminder of grief and loss in the absence of a father’s love and affirmation, and also the realization that he is a beloved child. I’m sure he would probably say to us, don’t ever hold back from telling and showing your children how much you love them, whether they think they’ve “outgrown it” or not. Be relentless in your verbal affirmation of your kids, foster meaningful relationships between them and healthy adults in their lives, and take advantage of every opportunity. Time is of the essence.
Director of Fatherhood Initiatives