One of the best gifts my husband said he had ever received from one of his children was given to him this past Christmas by his oldest son, Tyler. Tyler is 21 years old and in his Junior year at the local University, where he is in the Chancellor’s Honors Program. He’s always been a very bright and gifted child. He’s one of those lucky kids who didn’t have to study to make perfect grades. School has always been easy for him, unlike his younger siblings who all had to struggle in different ways to maintain good grades. There are some who think he should use his gift to become a high earning medical doctor or lawyer…but that’s not for him. He has a love for learning and a talent for helping others that most do not have. He is studying to be an English Professor.
In one of this classes recently, he had an assignment to write a true short story about someone he knows. He chose his father. Tyler gifted the story to him on Christmas, and as I watched my husband read the story, I could see that he was brought almost to tears by the words his son put to paper about him. Words that showed how much his son truly admired, loved and appreciated him. As parents, we often wonder if we had done or are doing a good job of raising our kids. We constantly question ourselves and feel we have fallen short, especially if the road has not always been smooth for them. My husband told me late that night as we were getting ready for bed, that he feels like he did something right…that while he did make mistakes (as all parents do), he now knows that he did not fail them at all. He may not have been able to provide fancy cars or expensive electronic gadgets to them…heck, we couldn’t even give each of them their own room, but he has always been there when they have needed him, even if it’s just to offer a shoulder to cry on. He’s always supported them in every way and gave them unconditional love. And he spent time with them.
When we look back on our childhood, do we remember all the expensive toys or trips our parents gave us? Or do we remember time spent together, loving and enjoying each others company? That’s what kids want. It’s what they need…their parents to spend time with them and to show them that they are loved unconditionally. That there is nothing that they could do that would cause us to ever stop loving them, even if we don’t always agree with the things they choose to do.
My husband’s favorite saying for years is that his happy thoughts are his children. I am proud to say that this man is not only my husband, but my best friend. There are not many like him, unfortunately. He is a family man. Other than God, nothing means more to him than his family, his wife and kids in particular. He even took another man’s child to raise as his own. He’s been a wonderful
step dad to my son. He loves him as his own, and that is not an easy thing to do. We have been through hell and back for our children, from custody battles fought to getting help for a mental health problem..and the list goes on. As our children age and grow into young adults, I believe they will begin to realize just how much was done for them and given up for them (with no regrets), and they will know just how much they are loved. It may take them having their own children before they can fully appreciate everything we have done and are doing for them (I know it happened to me…I’ve apologized to my mom several times for the hell I put her through when I was a teenager). There are things I wish we had done with our kids, things I wish we could have given them when they were younger, and even a few things I would do differently if I could go back. Some lessons we learned by trial and error because as we all know….mistakes are easily made. Parenting is never easy and there is no one way to parent, but many different ways. There is no such thing as the perfect parent or the perfect child. I’m so thankful of the time spent with every one of our children and I’m thankful that they can look back and relive the many (SO MANY) good memories that we all created together.
I hope all of our children realize that their dad and I love them unconditionally. They can always count on that, no matter what. And for all of the parents out there reading this…go out and create memories with your children, good ones. Coach their little league or soccer team, take them out for ice cream, take them camping, have a family game night once a week, etc. If you have more than one child, try to spend one on one time with each of them, no matter how difficult that may be at times. You don’t even have to leave your home for that! Always let them know that you love them unconditionally. Especially when things are not always so easy. Don’t try to solve all your kids problems and smooth the way for them, even though that’s the first inclination we have. Let them experience pain and disappointment, because life is full of it. Prepare them for the real world. But most importantly…love them.