I am likely at a different stage than many of you. My children are all full-grown adults. I feel fortunate knowing most of my developmental work in their lives is behind me. Despite their age or where they are in their lives, they will always be my children and I will always be their dad. In this season of parenting, I am hoping they find as much joy simply hanging with dad as I do hanging out with them.
What does parenting look like to you? How does a parent of mature, developed children interact with them? What transpires when life happens to them? What kind of dad am I then? What type of dad do I need to be? What kind of dad do they need me to be?
These can be difficult questions for parents, regardless of the age or stage of life their children are in.
There are two things I know about my behaviors as a dad:
One, I was an “All about me Dad.” How my children engaged in activities, made plans for their life, and worked out their struggles were all about me – my process, my expectations, my requirements, my solutions, my rules. Not following the plan or staying on course, was defined as not measuring up or, at minimum, became a call to action to improve or do better next time. Imagine the pressure of such expectations.
Two, I didn’t fail as a dad, but I definitely feared I would. “All about me Dad” was the manifestation of my fear. I had determined what success would look like in parenting, i.e., how I would be measured – successful, responsible, driven, accomplished, intelligent, high achieving children – and set out on a course to make certain this would be their outcome. My motivation was to insure no one ever would ever see what I feared most – not being a good parent.
My parenting objectives were more about me and my fears of failure, and less about my children and their specific, individual parental needs.
As I reflect on the journey I have been on and what I have learned about being a dad, I realize the behaviors associated with my fears of failing as a parent probably hurt my children more than helped them. Today, I look at critical questions in my continued responsibilities in being their dad and I have an entirely different set of priorities and objectives:
- Do each one of my children know how much I love them?
- How confident are they in this love as completely unconditional?
- Do they experience this love in every interaction regardless of the situation?
- Is it a love which accepts and celebrates them for who they are, not where they are?
- Do they find safety and security in my love in such a way they can talk to me about anything?
- Is my love for them free of unsolicited opinion, judgement, criticisms, or condemnation?
- Are they truly free to be who they are?
Love is experienced. Love is unconditional. Love is free of disappointment.
As I move forward celebrating my adult children and the path they are on, it is my objective they experience my love for them, how I celebrate where they are, and how I walk with them to provide support and encouragement for them in their struggles.
This is a huge shift for “All about me Dad” living in fear of failing as a parent and attempting to control and define outcomes. Instead of focusing on being the dad I believe I need to be, I am committed to being they dad they need me to be. This has completely redefined my relationships with my children, brought healing to certain aspects of it, and has freed me up to simply celebrate the gift of love we have for each other. I don’t always walk this out to perfection, but I love when I live in this space as I experience a profound connection to my children when I do.
Want more insights from this blog? Join me on the podcast “100Pedals Talk: Inside the Blog” as I delve deeper into this post and share personal stories or reflections behind the article. (Note: The podcast relating to any particular blog is released on Thursday of the same week this blog is posted.)
I would love to hear from you. What issues are confronting you today? Where are you currently experiencing fear and shame relating to the struggles in your life? I have some pretty cool tools to guide you and would love to help. Please let me know: dave@100Pedals.com.
Dave Cooke is going on the Road! Learn more about this year’s cross county cycling trip, Cycling for Recovery 2017.