It’s a common occurrence that men pour out their love to their children through their grandchildren. This outpouring of love can be mystifying to their adult children. Have you ever wondered where this man, your father, was all your life? It’s amazing to see the shift, the openness to play, be relaxed…to simply laugh and enjoy each other as grandpa and kid. There’s a connectedness that sought after by every child with their father and yet, in my generation at least, so few achieve.
It’s tempting to get resentful watching this play that is often absent rules and is simply joyous. I invite you to consider another approach.
Consider how you as fathers are with your children right now. The majority of my clients report estranged relationships with their fathers. They report their fathers as providers and disciplinarians and physically present but emotionally and intellectually absent. They report their fathers mainly expressing anger, frustration, and a tough emotionlessness that calls them to “Walk it off” as crying is for girls or sissies. (whatever they are) They report we simply don’t say much and where moments of joy, loudness, even speaking loud enough that other might overhear is shushed.
Sound like you? Consider that it doesn’t have to be this way.
Ask yourself, “What kind of relationship do I want with my kids?” Do you want them to be happy to see you coming or happy to see you leaving? When I asked myself these questions and worked through the answers with my coach; here’s what I discovered. I wanted to have fun with my family and not just my wife and son but with my brothers, my mother and my in-laws. I wanted to share secrets and tell stories. I wanted to laugh and play games. I wanted my son to hear that I loved him and to feel that love in my actions. I wanted that for my wife too.
With a lot of work, I’ve achieved it. I have off days to be sure and I’ve learned some practices to work through those moments and focus on how I really wanted to show up in their lives. ‘How I really wanted to operate in the world in general. In turn, I’ve helped my clients achieve that connectedness for themselves.
Here’s the deal. The kind of relationship you have with your kids has nothing to do with them and everything to do with you. What kind of courage are you willing to show them? ‘The courage to be vulnerable and to love conditionally? Consider what would it be like to put yourself out there from a place of love without expectation? Here are a couple of things I’ve found in the work I’ve done on myself and with my clients.
- Your kids don’t want a provider. They don’t really have a concept of providing beyond what you project. For the most part, things kind of show up. They have no judgment of right or wrong, worthy or not worth beyond the mean you attach. Your kids just want all of you. That means your time, your attention, your humor (provided its building and doesn’t put them down), your sadness, and your joy. Most of all, they want your interest. Be genuinely interested in what they’re doing. When you withhold yourself for whatever reason, it comes out as frustration and they think it’s about them.
It’s one thing to support your kid, but if you have an interest in what your child is doing, it makes it a whole lot easier.
1. Forgiveness is a key component of connectedness.
If you’ve noticed your absent, angry, bitter, resentful and you’re projecting it at home, ask for forgiveness. Ask for your kids’ grace AND change. What’s more, forgive yourself. The good news is that we can remake ourselves.
2. “I’ll love you if…If you loved me…” games in all their forms kill connectedness.
In order to be connected, both people must be authentic and without expectation. Anything else is manipulation. Ultimately, manipulation is transactional and dissatisfying. It leaves us empty, frustrated and distrustful. This means, love your kids because you’ve decided to love your kids not because you think they think you’re cool or they somehow owe you.
3. Love in action trumps words every time.
Let’s face it, “I love you,” as a phrase is pretty cheap. Demonstrating love by showing grace, support, and commitment when your kids make mistakes, take chances you wouldn’t, take action on dreams you can’t understand, or choose lifestyles that don’t jibe with your moral code is love in action. This means, control your anger, control you gestures, control facial expressions, and your eyes. This doesn’t mean stifling you feels as much as believing your kids are capability, creative, and whole. Decide to love in action. I invite you to look at yourself in the mirror as ask yourself if there was anything in this world that your kids could do or say that would cause you to decide not to love. Be real and responsible about your answer.
4. Be patient.
Can you love your kids even if they don’t love you at the moment? If you’ve been absent, angry, resentful for a long time as I was, it may take a long time for your kids to trust that you’ve changed. Stay the course even it takes a lifetime and (see above.) It’s not about receiving love but in you loving. Just be you and give grace.
It doesn’t matter how your child comes to you. I’ve never felt such joy and such love. It’s the most beautiful delicious little thing
What’s awesome is the possibility of choice. What’s inspiring is me and my clients discovering and practicing our full range of emotions and redefining what it means to be a man. That definition includes the special kind of courage that comes with vulnerability, with healing, and daring to be happy for its own sake.
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