“By profession, I am a soldier and take pride in that fact. But I am prouder — infinitely prouder — to be a father.” ~General Douglas MacArthur
One of the things I find most rewarding in the work I do with men — many of whom are fathers and all of whom had one — is to observe the relationships between fathers and their children.
My conversations with these fathers usually begin with a discussion of overcoming some type of logistical, internal, or external obstacle in their business or career.
Often then, the conversation will turn toward their children. A father might say:
- “I want to save time to ask you about something with my kid.”
- “I’m worried about my son.”
- “Can I get your take on this?”
Or sometimes they close their eyes and say, “I really messed up with my kid this week.”
As these conversations shift, something energetically shifts too. It’s visible. They are tuning into the “why” behind their work and what they are most proud of — their role as a father.
These men who are leading people, running companies, and leaping trains in a single bound — soften. Their life’s priority is now on the table.
They may light up as they share stories of their kid’s success at the swim meet. How smart she is or how something he said cracked him up. Or they may become starkly serious as they ask for help with their teen’s anxiety, a son who is being bullied, or how their own decisions now will affect their children in the future.
What they all share in common, regardless of how they express or demonstrate their love, is that they love deeply.
There isn’t a man whose eyes don’t get wet when he understands the impact he has on his child.
When I see it click just how much a child needs and yearns for their love and validation, many men have asked to cut our meeting short so they can correct a mistake or express what they haven’t said enough to their child before.
There is no greater leverage for a man’s behavioral change, than when the “why” becomes about his child. The impossible becomes a given. Stuck turns to unstoppable.
During a client conversation, a seasoned leader asked me my thoughts about his child who was not performing at the level he sensed his son was capable. The father expressed his frustration. When we dug deeper and the father looked through a different lens, he could see that his son was resistant to do what was true for himself because he thought it would disappoint his father.
Seeing the situation through a new lens, the father told his middle-aged son that no matter what choice his son made, he would always love him unconditionally. This set his son free. My client reported that their conversation was “life-changing.” That’s the power of a father’s relationship with their child.
After decades and countless conversations with men, what I know for sure is whether your father is still with you in this lifetime or not, no matter whether he expressed himself or not — he loved with all he had.
No matter how well fathers speak or demonstrate their love (or not), no matter whether their days reflect their value of family (or not) — they care deeply and are doing the best they can to love their family.
If you are a Father, thank YOU. It is not an easy job but certainly an important one.
I know you work hard and the responsibility you carry can at times feel overwhelming. I get it. I see you. Thank YOU.
But here’s something else I encourage you to keep in mind. Your children will not measure you or your life by the volume of your accomplishments, not the prominence of your achievements, not the lifestyle you provided, or the material gifts you leave for them in the end. The metric on which your life will be judged is how you made your child feel.
The simple way to know today how you are doing in terms of that metric comes down to two simple questions: What do I want my children to say about me? Would they say that today?
If there is a gap — not to worry — you have time. Make a resolution to live every day going forward so that in the end your life will be judged a success based on the right metric.
The most direct route to improving your child’s life is to improve your own — emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually. Be their model. There is a direct and high ROI when you do.
Make your own happiness a priority and be emotionally available to your kid. No matter how old they are — they still want your love, support, and validation. I haven’t found an exception yet.
Finally, remember that there is no way to be a perfect father. You will get things wrong. It’s the nature of the game. But, it’s never too late to become a great father — until you can’t.
As you spend your days giving so much, remember the greatest gift you can ever give your child is free, that is, to tell him or her, “You are unconditionally loved by me.”
Cheers to father’s everywhere! Happy Father’s Day!