Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Love is a verb

An excerpt from
Love is a Verb
by Glenn Van Ekeren

 I cherish so much about our children. Through my many years of parenting, this is what I realized that I treasured the most: each relationship.

Oh, I admit it's nice when they scored points in a basketball game or gracefully performed a dance routine. I'm pleased when their report cards revealed above-average scores, or when I observed the effort put into a school project. And of course it's flattering when people comment how nice they looked or how respectful they were.

But what really tripped my trigger and renewed my parental energy—after returning from a speaking trip, or working on a free-throw shot, playing taxi driver, or setting curfew—was a loving smile, a hug, a high five, and the four cherished words: "I love you, Dad."

I became keenly aware how my actions, words, tone of voice, or nonverbals affected the loving, caring, and mutually respectful relationship we enjoyed as a family. As a father, I failed at times to uphold my end of the responsibility. There were situations when I crushed my children's spirits.

When my son was in the sixth grade, another dad and I agreed to coach a traveling basketball team. Along with our two sons, we invited ten other boys to enjoy the experience with us.

It didn't take long for me to realize that the definition of a father-coach is someone who expects his son to be everything he wasn't. I upheld high and sometimes unrealistic expectations. I even found it easy to justify my demands by attempting to motivate my son to be the best he could be. However, during one game I overstepped my parental privileges.

The game was already won. The boys fought courageously to overcome a major point deficit to hold a comfortable lead with thirty-seven seconds left in the game. Out of nowhere Matt (my son) stole the ball, dribbled the length of the court, and missed an uncontested lay-up.

I chose to release my accumulated tension from the game on my son for missing that lay-up. The shot meant nothing. We had won the game and advanced to the finals. Matt played with heart and gave his all, yet he blew that simple lay-up. I let him know in no uncertain terms how disappointed I was and how ridiculous it was for him to miss such a simple shot.

The joy of winning drained from his face. He stood motionless and speechless as Dad continued to drain the power from his self-esteem battery. I knew I'd blown it, but I continued to justify my outburst and dig myself into a deeper hole.

The next hours waiting for the championship game were long and quiet. Matt was hurting inside, and I was full of guilt. There was little question that I needed my son's forgiveness.

Sitting in our van outside the gymnasium, I slowly turned to look into Matt's fearful and discouraged face. "Matt, I was wrong," I began. "I'm sorry for blowing up at you. You worked hard in that game and I failed to recognize you for all the good things you did. Please forgive me."

It was then that Matt touched my heart, and my eyes filled with tears. "It's okay, Dad. I know you love me."

Thanks to my son, I could walk into the championship game with a clear conscience, a repaired heart, and a softer spirit.

We lost the championship game by one point, but I came out of that tournament a winner. My son had forgiven me.

The only way to heal a damaged spirit is to swallow the parental pride and say, "I'm sorry. I was wrong. Please forgive me." Failure to bring healing when you've been unfair or hurtful can breed anger for years to come.

When was the last time you told your child, "I'm sorry for anything I have ever said or done that has hurt you"?

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