When I was little, my father had a storage closet solely dedicated to all of his CDs. He had rows and rows of music..and to my little eyes, it seemed like it was a neverending collection. Sometimes I would go in the closet and just stare at all of it in awe. In fact, some of my fondest memories as a child are listening to music with my father and dancing with him in our living room. And even today, music remains a huge passion of mine.
As I get older, I realize how much in my life can be credited to the influence of my parents.
I was lucky enough to recently have a visit from my father and his wife. While they were here, I asked my dad to think about the three most important things that he has learned over the years as a father. He has always given me solid advice and that continues to this day.
Here are his three pieces of wisdom:
1. Your children don’t “belong” to you.
You are responsible for raising your children and you have to take care of them, but they’re really beings of the universe that you are taking care of and raising. You have no right to impose your way of life on them or dictate how they live their lives (ex. you must do this, you must become this, etc).
You don’t need direction. You know which way to go. And I don’t want to hold you back. I just want to watch you grow.
– “Child Of Mine” by Carole King
2. Help them discover their passions.
It’s really important to try to identify early on the things that your children love and what they’re passionate about. Pay attention to what they love to do. Also, it’s important to do that for yourself. Part of being a healthy adult is to be aware of your passions and develop them. Happiness is making progress towards fulfilling your purpose here on earth.
You never said too much but still you showed the way. And I knew from watching you.
– “Everything I Own” by Bread
3. Try to stay calm.
Throughout the stages of their lives, children will push your buttons — the trick is to not overreact. Stay calm and try not to be so reactive to their moods and the things that they say. The calmer you can stay, the more effective parent you will be. And your kids will be happier too.
Your time has come to shine. All your dreams are on their way…Oh, if you need a friend, I’m sailing right behind. Like a bridge over troubled water, I will ease your mind.
-“Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon & Garfunkel
There was a time in my life when I tended to focus on the negative aspects of my parents’ influence.
As a teenager, for example, I was more focused on what wasn’t going right in my life and how I could blame it on them. Those are the years that my father was mostly referring to when he talked about trying to stay calm as a parent (Sorry, Dad!). But as time goes by, I have come to focus much more on their positive influence. I would imagine that becoming a parent myself has played a role in that shift, but also just maturing and growing as a person.
I recently watched a documentary on Netflix about Tony Robbins. There was one part that deeply resonated with me. He was talking to a young woman about the difficulties that she faced with her own father and what Tony basically said to her (minus a few curse words) was this: If you’re going to blame your parents for all the bad things in your life, you better blame them for all the good too.
I love the idea of “blaming” someone for the good…giving that person credit and focusing on the positive.
So, here goes: Dad, I blame you for my love of music. I blame you for continually showing me the importance of exercise and taking care of your body and mind. I blame you for being the perfect example of how you can never stop learning in this world. I blame you for showing me how to be a kind and open-minded person. I blame you for teaching me to be accepting of the flaws in others and in myself. I blame you for showing me the power of resilience and that struggles can be overcome.
I thank you for all of these things and so much more. I love you and I am continuously grateful for your support and your wisdom. And I can’t wait to share all of it with my own daughter.
I said I love you and that’s forever. And this I promise from the heart. I could not love you any better. I love you just the way you are.
– “Just The Way You Are” by Billy Joel