It was a gusty day and my mind was on catching a flight to Kansas City, as I drove through our crowded city streets. My daughters had to be dropped off at school because their Social Studies projects would surely fall apart if taken on the bus.
We were on time but I was impatient. Traffic was backing up and I was stressed, worried about flight delays or backups at the airport. As my mind jumped back and forth, I suddenly realized my girls were both talking….to me. They were telling me about their classes, their annoyances with some of the boys in the cafeteria, the grades they hoped to get on their projects, and more. But I wasn’t listening. My mind had drifted far from the here and now.
I was preoccupied to such a degree that I was missing the most important conversation of all: One with my beautiful daughters. Before I knew it, we were in front of their school. I helped them lift their projects out of the car and secure them safely in the swift wind. Before I pulled away I told them, “I love you both. Have a good day. I’ll see you when I get home on Saturday.” They smiled and disappeared into the school.
And so it went. On with my day…on with my flight out of town. But as I drove toward the airport, the thought suddenly crossed my mind- “Do they really know I love them?” Sure I tell them. And for the most part, I show them. But do they know in the depths of their heart that their dad loves them? Is it black and white? Or, is there gray? Is there uncertainty? Maybe my rushed schedule leaves them wondering? Maybe my constant pre-occupation with work and travel causes them to wonder.
Some may say I’m over-reacting, even beating myself up too much. “Kids are resilient!” they’d say. “They know you’re busy. And they know in their hearts that you love them!” But do they? Am I really satisfied with that? Is this really good enough? I’m not sure it is.
So, I’ve decided something when it comes to my love for my children. Three big questions started bouncing around in my mind that day, as I drove toward the airport. It was the gut-check I needed. I decided that I had to answer them not once, but every day of my life, if I wanted to be certain my children knew how deep my love for them really is…
Have I Told Them?
I’ve been given some great gifts- A voice. A heart. Words.
Do I use these precious gifts to tell my children how much they mean to me, how much I love them? Do they hear it from me every day. Love is saying “I love you,” but it’s also saying, “I believe in you,” “I’m proud of you,” “You are awesome!”
Am I paying attention enough to the things my children are proud of, to be proud of them too? When my daughter raises her grade in science and she’s happy, am I happy? Do I tell her how proud I am of her? Before they lay their heads down at night for sleep, have they heard me say how much I love them? Are they the last words they hear as they drift off into a land of dreams?
My voice, my heart, and my words must be megaphones that project love to my children. But this is only the beginning. I have to answer a greater question next…
Have I Shown Them?
We live in a world where words are cheap. Turn on your television set, listen to your radio, or even listen to people on the street- words are tossed around like leafs in the wind. We over use words, especially the word “Love.” We make a mistake, we say we’re sorry and we’ll never do that again. But will we? Do we really mean that? Or, are we word-smithing our way out of a situation that we’re bound to find ourselves in again down the road?
Our children are clued in. Yes, we need to tell our children that we love them, but in order to keep those words from growing cheap, or losing their luster, we must show love in our actions. Love must not only spill from our lips, but also radiate from our whole being.
The way our loved ones, particularly our children, believe that we love them is when our words are backed up by actions. And that even applies to our mistakes. When we screw up, disappoint our children, and work to make it right, we cannot rest on our promises to “do better next time” alone. We must show this to our children. We must show the change within us, not only with our words, but also our actions.
Am I Living It?
Does my whole life reflect the love that’s in me, and do my children see this? It shows up in the way I treat a grocery store clerk, or the person who cuts me off on the highway. My children are filing all of that away in an exhaustive filing cabinet in their mind.
My life must be loving at home, at work, in public, with my wife, with my children, with friends, extended family, and even strangers. Why? It’s simple, really. The way I live love, is the way my children will live love, now, and in the future.
Maybe you’ve struggled with this lately like I have? Maybe you’re unsure if your children know how much you love them? Maybe you’ve even carried around some guilt because of your fast-paced scheduled. While I do believe kids are resilient, I also know they are fragile. They’re easily broken. But they are fixed, often, by our words and actions. They are also very forgiving.
That’s good news for you and me. We can make things right starting today. So, what are you waiting for?
How are you showing your children you love them everyday?