I have a friend. A young man of 18 who speaks quite often about all of the things he desires to accomplish. He talks a lot about his passions and dreams and things that interest him. He talks about college and moving to another country someday and making money doing something he loves. But there is always this other part of his future that resounds deeply with regret and determination to prove himself. You see, this young man has spent a good chunk of time being sheperded to the outside. Ostrasized for hsi bad choices or maybe simply because some parents take their childs individuality as a personal attack on themselves as parents. No matter what the reason for his journey, this young man has repeatedly told me about how he wants to “make something” of himself so he can prove himself to his father. Which makes me want to shake him and say “You already ARE something!!!” It is pretty clear to me that it is his father who is missing out on so much and lacking an awful lot. The young man told me yesterday he was thinking about the military because he could get a high rank and show up at his fathers door in full uniform with his badges of rank on display. Something tells me not even then would his father understand his HEART.
And THAT is what truly matters. Who we are is not about rank or status quo or financial status or popularity. It isn’t who we marry or where we live or who we vote for. It isn’t our job or our diagnosis or who we associate with. In the end, when all else is stripped away, what we are left with is the true US. The stuff that makes us cry, the things that stir up angry indignation within our souls. The moments we throw our heads back and laugh. Our scars. Both fleshly and heart scars. The things that move us. Move us to fight for what we believe in. Move us to weep. Move us to dance. Move us to keep on moving. It breaks my heart to think of this young man whom I admire so much and respect so deeply constantly seeking approval for the wrong things. Do I understand longing for acceptance and approval from a parent? Of course. I have done it myself. But one can simply exhaust oneself into a grave tirelessly trying to be “good enough”.
This young man is going to be a father soon. This November he will change and be changed forever in huge ways that will form his soul and spirit into new dimensions. I realize he cannot even begin to grasp the understanding of this change. Who I was before I became a parent is now simply a faint memory. Life changes when a child enters this world and claims us as theirs. Right now he is worrying about visitation and custody issues. About how he will handle the physical responsibilities of caring for his son. But if I could give him just one piece of advice as a seasoned parent to a new parent it woudl be this:
TELL HIM THAT YOU LOVE HIM. Tell him every day. Tell him you love him when he is brand new and has watery eyes of wisdom and still smells of heaven. Tell him when he is screaming in a tantrum and cannot even hear your words. Tell him with words and with actions. Raise a son who has no doubt in his mind that you love and accept him. Because then, when he is 18 ( or 3 or 14 or 30) he won’t ever, for one fraction of a moment, ever wonder if he is good enough. He will not feel the need to “make something” of himself. He will simply know.
Thats a pretty basic rule of Parenting 101 for all of us, really. Kids don’t really require very much. And the most basic need they all have is LOVE. So tell them. Tell them hwo very wanted and adored and appreciated and cherished they really are. Tell them before they go looking in all of the wrong directions seeking that approval and acceptance. Write them little love notes and stick them under their pillow or in their lunch boxes. Kiss them goodbye every morning before school and say “I love you. Have a great day.” Even when they are 12 and roll their eyes and wipe your kiss away. Make sure they know they are still loved even when they are annoying the piss out of you and all you really want to do is scream and run away and join the carnival. Tell them, tell them, tell them. Every day.
There is so much destruction in the heart of a person who has grown up not feeling that love.
There is so much power in the heart of a person who has grown up with that love. Love can heal, can build up, can help growth happen.
Never let a day go by without telling them.
And that young man? Well, I hope he knows he really is an amazing person, inside and out. His light shines so bright….I believe in time his father won’t be able to avoid seeing it himself. But even if he never did……
Well, that young man is still nothing less than everything he has ever been meant to be and everything he desires to be.