When my two oldest daughters started college, I sent them off with a collection of books I believed would do them some good as they transitioned into adulthood.
It was seven years after college when they actually read the books and agreed with me. By that time, however, many of the mistakes that could have been prevented had already been made.
“I did not know how much I did not know,” said one of my daughters.
“Welcome to the club,” I replied.
“I wished I had listened to you, daddy,” the other twin merely stated.
My youngest daughter had a different set of issues, those that required a different set of books.
She is very goal-oriented but tends to get involved in everything she finds interesting. She eventually gets overwhelmed by her own ambitions and tends to procrastinate. In short, she is in a constant battle within herself.
I gave her two books, “I’ll do it Tomorrow” and “The Guide to Life After High School.” Needless to say, “tomorrow” never came, and to this day she hasn’t read either of the books.
Not one to give up, I’ve placed the books in strategic places hoping to get her attention. Most recently, I affixed them with magnets to the refrigerator door, just like a child’s artwork. I know she’s been there, but the books haven’t moved.
I don’t know how it is for other families – or dads for that matter – but I try to take stock and evaluate myself. If I have endured a life lesson worth passing along, I do so. I also try to take stock of my children and evaluate them. I compare and contrast things we have in common and things we don’t.
If we share a common weakness, I feel it is my duty to share my scars in an attempt to prevent someone from making similar mistakes. If we share a common strength with people, I try to help them become stronger and better than I am.
I always want the next generation to be better. I have informed my children that “backward” is not an option for our family. You don’t have to go to church or college; you get to go to church and college. We are indebted to those who came before us to make something of our lives and be a blessing to our fellow man. If our heads are in the clouds, it is because we are walking on their shoulders. We also owe it to our Creator to be the best we can be.
So that’s it. Pretty clear and concise, isn’t it? How could such a clear objective get lost in its application? I am often left wondering that after a session with my children. I try to mean what I say, say what I mean and don’t say it mean, but somehow it gets lost in translation. I wouldn’t mind the confusion if it didn’t mean lost time, or lost money, or new scars, but it usually means a combination of all three. And often I find myself helping with the clean up.
During those times, I am like the character in Robert Frost’s poem, with miles to go before I sleep, all because he/she chose the road most traveled. It is during those times of “I told you so moments” when a still small voice speaks to me.
“David, what about the times you have messed up? The times that I have had to bail you out, fix you up and dust you off? Have you forgotten your scars of development?”
Naturally I have not. As a matter of fact, mankind has been messing up perfect love since the Garden of Eden.
As a result, I temper my correction with traces of mercy. I guess that’s what growth is all about.
So I give directions and suggestions at the fork in the road, and if they take the road most traveled and need some roadside assistance, I’m there for that situation as well.
I am reminded of the time when my son played with his remote control for his select comfort bed.
“How did you sleep?” I asked him the next morning.
“Awful,” he replied. “That bed was as hard as a rock.”
Once I finished laughing, I demonstrated to him how to operate the control and explained what the numbers meant.
As revelation settled in like a soft rain, he realized too late that he was responsible for making his bed hard.