Last year, we managed to get all our kids and grandkids together in the same location, dressed just right for the perfect portrait. But you know how kids are …
Most of our grandkids are toddlers and preschoolers, so if I said it was chaos, that might be putting it mildly. What I remember was kids melting down, running off in the wrong direction, or just about falling asleep. Then, a diaper change and a mess on a sweater.
I mean, is it even worth the hassle for a photo?
Those thoughts did go through my mind that day. And I might be overstating it a bit, but for a while it was not fun. And as a granddad, I wasn’t even involved in most of it.
But when I saw the photo, I never would have known there were all those challenges. Everyone looked great! And 10 or 20 years from now when I look at that photo, I’m sure I won’t even remember what that day was like. I’ll just be thinking about my amazing grandkids and how they’ve grown and changed, and I’ll be wondering where those precious years went.
If your family is anything like mine, there are a lot of holiday events and activities like that. You anticipate the “perfect” meal or evening or outing, but things go wrong. The kids argue and fight. Or there’s a blizzard. Or you can’t get in to see the Christmas play. One thing builds on the last, and pretty soon you wonder if it’s even worth it.
Well, I’m here to tell you, it is.
In many ways, I think our kids’ memories are like that photo. What they remember in the years ahead is going to be better than what you may feel at the time as the dad. It might be hard for you to get past today’s challenges, but I urge you to “see the bigger picture” … so to speak.
So expect a little chaos. But also expect a great family time this Christmas. Invest yourself 100 percent in connecting with family members and bringing home genuine joy for them.
When things go wrong—and they will—you don’t have to worry so much or get stressed out. Just smile, keep rolling with it, and look forward to the next thing on your schedule.
When my kids were younger, they thought there wasn’t anything I couldn’t do and that I never made mistakes. Not because it was true, but because I told them so.
Eventually they realized it wasn’t true and it was all a joke. They learned I did have limitations and I did make mistakes.
Some mistakes we make as dads are easy to let our kids see. But there are other mistakes you and I probably wish they never knew about. But I’ve come to learn that our kids need to see our mistakes, and not just the little ones with little consequences. They should also see the big mistakes with big consequences.
When we let our kids see our mistakes, it shows them mistakes can have good results in the end. It gives them opportunities to learn from our mistakes, which may prevent them from making the same mistakes in the future. If you want to give your kids these opportunities, then here are seven mistakes you should let them see you make:
1. Mistakes in your finances. Maybe you have bounced a check, have paid a bill late or have mismanaged money that prevented you from taking care of a financial obligation or opportunity. Use this opportunity to teach your kids about financial responsibility.
2. Mistakes in your marriage. Your kids may see you and your wife not on the best terms in a disagreement. Don’t let them see you in a heated argument, but don’t hide the fact that you disagree either. Let them see it based on their level of maturity and understanding. And let them see the resolution.
3. Mistakes in your word. Have you ever said you’d do something and didn’t do it? Then had negative consequences? Allow your kids to see that so they know the importance of keeping your word.
4. Mistakes in your work. Have you made a mistake that made you and your company look bad? Or have you been fired from a job? As hard as it may be to tell your wife, letting your kids know why you are home during the day is even tougher. But you should let them see it. It’ll help them see not only the consequences, but also the hard work it takes to recover.
5. Mistakes in your relationship with them. When you make mistakes with your kids when they are young, not too much will be made of it. But when your kids get older, your mistakes will not be glanced over. They’ll be the first to tell you. These are great opportunities to show humility by apologizing.
6. Mistakes in your punctuality. This is our family’s Achilles’ heel. Our kids can learn a lot of what not to do in this area. Maybe you aren’t as bad, but on occasion you do run late. Let them see it so they can appreciate when a person is timely.
7. Mistakes in your health. Perhaps you’ve not taken care of your body like you desire. Let your kids see the mistakes. This just might encourage you to do better with your eating, exercise and even sleep. There would be nothing greater than them seeing you complete a personal makeover to improve your health and quality of living in front of their eyes.
I’m a mom of three boys and three girls. It’s easy to show my girls that I love them. I sit and ask them questions. I listen to them talk and talk and talk. I buy them pink nail polish with sparkles. I “get” girls.
It was harder to figure out my boys. When I asked them questions about their day, I could feel their frustration. Once, when I was asking my young adult son about his first day of college, my husband turned to me and said, “Why are you grilling him?”
What? I was just trying to show I was interested. My daughter would have loved to share every detail!
If you’re a mom of older sons, it can sometimes be hard to show your love. Here are 15 ideas to do just that.
15 Ways to Show Your Teen Son Your Love
1. Go on a long drive and just sit side by side. Don’t ask any questions; just enjoy the view and wait for him to talk. (It will feel awkward, but I guarantee your son will love the side-by-side time.)
2. Ask your son about his most recent video game … and then just listen.
3. Make your son’s favorite dinner and let him know you were thinking of him.
4. Tell your son how proud you are of a good character trait you see in him.
5. Visit him at his work. Don’t make it a big deal, but just smile and wave.
6. Invite him to lunch, your treat, at his favorite restaurant.
7. When you’re at the grocery store, text your son and ask if there’s anything he needs.
8. Offer to play his favorite board game with him … even if you know there’s no chance of your winning, even if you try.
9. Do his laundry without making a big deal about it.
10. Stop what you’re doing and really listen the next time he wants to tell you something.
11. Let your son overhear you talking to someone else and praising one of his accomplishments.
12. Make snacks for your son and his friends when they’re hanging out at your house.
13. Buy a book he’s interested in and leave it on his bed with a note.
14. Show up the next time he invites you to do something with him.
15. Take his problems seriously, even when they don’t seem like a big deal to you.
These seem like simple things, but you know you’re making a difference when you see your son’s smile!
Now, how about you? What are ways you show your teen son that you love him?.
Tricia Goyerhas written more than 35 books, including both novels that delight and entertain readers and nonfiction titles that offer encouragement and hope. She has also published more than 500 articles in national publications such as Guideposts, Thriving Family, Proverbs 31, and HomeLife Magazine.
So I thought I’d go to the well again and share these 10 more things wives want to hear from their husbands.
1. “I’m your biggest fan.” Everyone wants someone to celebrate their wins and encourage them in their struggles. Be sure your wife knows that you will always be there to cheer her on.
2. “I’m thankful for the little things you do.” If your wife makes you coffee every morning, appreciate this small act of kindness with thankfulness. Don’t fail to notice the small ways she shows her love to you each day.
3. “Let’s take a walk together.” Show your wife that she’s important by prioritizing your day to set aside time to be with her.
4. “I miss you when we’re apart.” Remind your wife that she is constantly on your mind whether you are at work, in the car or anywhere else. Never take her presence for granted.
5. “I’m here for you.” You won’t always understand everything that your wife is going through. But youcan listen and sympathize with her by letting her cry on your shoulder when life gets tough.
6. “You’ll always have me by your side.” No matter what life throws at you— parenting challenges, hard financial decisions or family tragedies—let your wife know that you’re walking with her and will carry her if you need to.
7. “I want to be the man you deserve.” Realize that there will be times when you fail your wife. When you do, apologize, learn from those mistakes, and let her know that you want to be a better husband.
8.“You love others so well.” Be sure she knows that you see the way she interacts with her friends and family. Then be a voice of encouragement to her in these relationships.
9. “I love you more every day.” Never let your wife forget that she is lovely, beautiful and breathtaking. Show her that you will continue to romance her for the rest of your life.
10. “How can I serve you today?” Your wife needs to know that you want to support and serve her in everything she does. Just asking this question will convey to her how much you care.
What are some other things wives want to hear from their husbands? Please share with me below.
Sometimes it’s easier to apply God’s truths to my life than to the lives of my children. I don’t know why that is. Maybe I feel like I should be able to fix things for them because I’m their mom.
If I just love them enough, they won’t feel the void their Dad’s departure left. Nope—not possible. Only God can.
If I just spend enough time with them, they won’t miss their father so much. Nope—not possible. Only God can.
If I just do enough for them, they’ll know that they are valuable and loved. Nope—not possible. Only God can.
If I make life easier for them, the pain won’t be as acute. Nope—not possible. Only God can.
What I’ve done in my feverish attempt to fill the hole left by their father is become completely exhausted and a bit ineffective as a parent. It might have served a purpose to a degree at the beginning, but now I have children who are selfish about my time, demanding of my resources, thoughtless of the dynamics of our family and a bit entitled in their mentality.
Lest it sound like I have the rottenest kids on the East Coast, let me say they are all wonderful. They all have lovely, sweet moments and kind words often. My teenage daughter still calls me “Mommy” sometimes, which absolutely melts my heart. My tweenage son still enjoys reading with me each night while we snuggle. My 6-year-old loves to draw pictures to encourage me. And at the most surprising and sweetest times, my 5-year-old will flash me the sign for “I love you.” They all bless me; they just don’t really help me!
I’ve noticed recently that they don’t seem to be getting some pretty obvious house rules. You know, the knock-before-entering thing. The don’t-help-yourself-to-mom’s-things-without-asking thing. The pick-up-after-yourself thing. The whole obey thing.
I’ve made myself entirely too available for them, so now they expect me to always be available for them. I’ve allowed them to enter my space freely and, boy, am I paying for that now! There are always people in my room messing with my stuff, making a mess.
During two years of an overly distracted life, I communicated more to a screen than to the people in my family. My schedule was so tightly packed that I constantly found myself saying, “We don’t have time for that.” And because there wasn’t a minute to spare, that meant no time to relax, be silly or marvel at interesting wonders along our path. I was so focused on my agenda that I lost sight of what really mattered.
Calling all the shots was a mean voice in my head. My internal drill sergeant was continually pushing me to make everything sound better, look better and taste better. My body, my house and my achievements were never good enough. Holding myself to such unattainable standards weighed heavily on my soul, and my inner turmoil eventually spilled out at people I loved the most.
Sadly, there was one person in particular who bore the brunt of my discontent: my firstborn daughter.
She could not make mess without me shaking my head in disappointment.
She could not forget her homework, her jacket or her lunchbox without me making a big deal about it.
She could not spill, stain, break or misplace without being made to feel like she’d made the worst mistake in the world.
Although it pains me to write this, I remember sighing heavily in annoyance when she fell down and hurt herself because it threw me off my “master schedule.” My daughter was not allowed to be a child who learned by trying and, yes, sometimes failing.
The truth hurts, but the truth heals … and brings me closer to the person and parent I want to be.
Every time I came down hard on my daughter, I justified my behavior by telling myself I was doing it to help her—help her become more responsible, capable and efficient and preparing her for the real world. I told myself I was building her up. But in reality, I was tearing her down.
I vividly remember the day my mother was visiting from out of town. The children were playing alone in the basement. My younger daughter began crying hysterically. I ran downstairs, fearing she was seriously hurt.
The first question out of my mouth was directed at my older daughter. “What did you do?” I asked angrily.
My child didn’t bother to explain that her little sister had slipped on the library book that was sitting on the bottom step. There really was no point. My beautiful child with humongous brown eyes that once held so much optimism looked defeated. Silent tears of a broken spirit slid down her face. My daughter knew it didn’t matter what she said, she’d still be wrong; it would still be her fault.
And there was my mother standing beside her, a silent witness to the whole ugly scene.
As my older daughter ran off to the sanctity of her bedroom, an unexpected question came out of my mouth. “You think I am too hard on her, don’t you?” I snapped.
My mom, who’d experienced her own difficult parenting moments and struggles, held no judgment in her eyes, only sadness. Her simple response of “yes” only confirmed what I knew in my heart.
I mustered up the courage to find the words that needed to be said. Apologizing didn’t come easily for someone who strived to make everything look perfect all the time, but I knew what needed to be said.
I found my child crumpled up like a dejected rag doll on top of her bed—her face puffy and red from crying.
“I’m sorry,” I mumbled.
My daughter didn’t move.
I sat down on the edge of her bed and began saying things I’d never said to another human being—not even myself. “I feel mad inside a lot. I often speak badly about myself in my head. I bully myself. And when I bully myself, it makes me unhappy, and then I treat others badly—especially you. It is not right, and I am going to stop. I am not sure how, but I will stop. I am so very sorry,” I vowed, trying not to cry.
My daughter looked unsure as to what to do with this confession, this unusual offering from her mother who rarely admitted any wrongdoing. I didn’t blame her for the skeptical look she gave me. I understood why she didn’t say anything back, but somewhere in those eyes I saw hope—hope that things could be different.
I desperately wanted things to be different too. It was time to stop being so hard on my child; it was time to stop being so hard on myself. I prayed I could stand up to the inner bully. I knew I needed an easy first step. I decided to use one simple word: Stop.
Within the hour, I had a chance to try it. The first critical thought that popped into my head arose as I was preparing to leave the house: I looked at my reflection and thought, “You look fat. You can’t go out looking like that.”
“Stop!” I assertively thought to myself, shutting down any further criticisms. Then I quickly turned away from the mirror and recited these words: “Only love today. Only love today.”
I used the same strategy when interacting with my child a few minutes later. Before any harsh words came out of my mouth about the way she was sloppily packing her bag of things, I cut off my inner critic by saying, “Stop! Only love today.” Then I swallowed the hurtful words and relaxed my disapproving face.
Within mere days of using the “stop” technique, I noticed a change. With a more positive thought process, it was easier to let go of the need to control, dictate and criticize. In response, my daughter began taking more chances and began revealing her true passions.
She started movie-making and website design on the computer. She made doll furniture and clothing to sell in the neighborhood. She began baking new recipes without any help.
Nothing she did was perfect. Nor was it mess-free or mistake-free, but the moment I said something positive, I saw her blossom a little more. That is when I began to clearly see beyond the mistakes and messes to what was truly important.
I began noticing my child’s inner beauty rather than looking for perfection on the outside.
I began paying more attention to the person she was rather than the successes she achieved.
I began letting her be who she was meant to be instead of some idealistic version I had in my head.
When I stopped being a bully to my child and myself, opportunities for growth and connection opened up. Over time, significant progress was made. In a little less than two years on my journey to let go of perfection and distraction, I received the confirmation I never thought I would receive.
My daughter was outside before school, tending to a garden she created smack dab in the middle of the yard. I watched from the kitchen window as she lovingly tended to her miniature plot. I was captivated by the utter joy on her face. She was clearly at peace.
Since my dad loves to garden and had taught my daughter a few things, I took a picture and sent it to my parents. Nothing could have prepared me for the gift I would receive in return.
My parents wrote, “Thank for this precious picture of our beautiful granddaughter. Over the last two years, we have seen a tremendous change in her. We no longer see a scared look in her eyes; she is less fearful about you being upset or impatient with her. She is much happier and more relaxed. She is thriving and growing into a content, creative and nurturing person. We know for a fact the changes we see in her coincide with the changes we have also seen in you.”
My friends, I have the following message to offer anyone who wants to believe today can be different than yesterday:
If you think that criticizing, belittling or critiquing yourself will make you smarter, fitter or more valuable, please reconsider.
If you think badgering, bullying or constantly correcting your child will make him or her more likable, more confident or more successful, please reconsider.
Because the truth is this:
It’s hard to love yourself with a bully breathing down your neck.
It’s hard to love yourself when the one person who’s supposed to love you unconditionally doesn’t.
It’s hard to become the person you’re supposed to be when you aren’t allowed to fall down and get back up.