This post originated as a response I contributed to on a Facebook Friend’s page. Later I thought of a couple more things to add so this is a revised version.
One valuable and precious insight I have gained over the past year as my two olders reach their teen years is the importance of their perception of me as a father. One Saturday night a few months ago, I heard the two olders talking upstairs when they should have been sleeping. I was like, “Aww, how cute, they’re talking and bonding late night!” I walked into the bedroom and I could sense their conversation shifting by my presence. My dad, spidey-sense, was like, “What’s going on here?” Very long story short, they concluded that, “Dad, you’re not very approachable.” Growing up in my culture, there was no way I, my siblings, my cousins, anyone, would be so critical of their parents, if they wanted to live. It was disrespectful. Perhaps I used to believe that children should be seen and not heard. But on this night, these kids dropped a little nugget of truth in my lap and I had to do something with it. Kids hate hypocrisy. I’ve preached to my children about facing hard things and owning what’s yours to own. It doesn’t always feel good but growth and maturity are always on the other side of owning what’s yours. Looking back, I think of how funny it would have been if I reacted angrily, yelling, “What do you mean I’m not approachable!? I am so approachable! Go to bed!” But I did not. Instead, I leaned against the wall, thinking about my next move. And then, I think a number of things happened in that moment, I put aside my ego, thought about the best father I could be, thought about the consequences if this went unchecked and I asked myself, “Zeke, is this true?” And then I said, “Tell me more.” And they did. They pulled no punches but were respectful of me as their father. It was a necessary and pivotal conversation. We bonded in the middle of the night. They helped me identify a blindspot to work on. Am I upset my children were able to detect a flaw in me? No. I would rather be genuine and honest and work on this for my children’s sake rather than be fake and dishonest for the sake of my pride and ego. I also think of the years ahead. I think of the situations and experiences all four of my children will live and have questions about. Where do I want to be then? I want to be close when those things arise. I want to field their questions, worries, and fears. I want to face those with them, up close and real.
Featured image attribution, “Man” by Jose Carlos Cortizo Perez is made available via Creative Commons License CC-BY-2.0. No changes to the image were made.