A friend stopped me in the hallway the other day and asked if I wanted to see the latest pictures of his son. I always say yes to this question. He scrolled through a half dozen pictures on his phone. I smiled as he showed me photos of his son, a toddler, eating spaghetti in a high chair, sauce all over his face. I suspect most parents have a picture like that somewhere.
It is kind of funny to think about how proud we are of something so mundane. So, the kid couldn’t get the food in his mouth. Wow. We need to document this.
But it isn’t the food nor the mess that makes us proud. We just are proud. Parents can’t help it. I think of all the events my friends have shared with me over the years about their children and grandchildren. Awards for t-ball, a picture on a first bicycle, a picture at the beach — all of them have the same thing in common. The moment reminds us how much we love our children and we can’t help but want to share it.
Even as I write these words, I see three photographs of my three children on my desk in front of me. All three pictures are from years ago, but they all remind me how much I love my children.
I’m proud of their accomplishments, their grades, and their career advancements. I don’t wish for the “good ol’ days” when they were little. Those were great times, but I love having adult children. I am seeing what they have become and I couldn’t be more pleased.
The very first column I ever wrote for The Citizen was entitled “Why Bother.” I’d had a full day of fun with my two daughters and then, just before bed, one of them complained about being bored. Ugh. Why bother. But as I noted in that column, I know why I bothered. I was preparing them for today.
Years ago, one of my dear friends experienced some trouble with one of his sons. As a punishment for his behavior, his son was required to do some yard work for an elderly woman in the community. My friend went and worked beside his son in the hot sun.
At some point, the boy asked my friend, “Dad, why are you here working? You didn’t do anything.” My friend responded, “Because, son, I’m your dad.” That is what we do. We love our children even in times of trouble.
Being proud of my children doesn’t mean every choice they have made is what I would have chosen for them. They are individuals and I always delight in their uniqueness, even when I’m not so sure about their choices.
Another good friend had two children who were musicians during the head-banging rock music days. I remember sitting through a concert that was so loud my ears still hurt. The long, wild hair of my friend’s sons seemed a poor fit for them and the “music” wasn’t anything I could recognize. But my friend sat through the concert smiling and encouraging his sons.
Someone asked him the question I didn’t have the nerve to ask. “Do you like that music?” My friend replied simply, “I love my sons!”
It wasn’t a dodge of the question and it was totally sincere. He couldn’t help but love their uniqueness even if he didn’t like their choice of music or hair style. At the time I had no children, but I decided at that moment I’d always try to be that kind of dad.
I wanted to be the kind of dad that worked in the hot sun with his boy and I wanted to be the kind of dad that encouraged his children even when the music hurt his ears.
My children are adults and I couldn’t be more proud of them. You would have to ask them if I succeeded in my goal to be a great dad, but as I gaze at their pictures I know there is nothing that could turn me away from them.
I’m anxiously waiting for the time when I’m a grandpa. I understand that the pride of a grandparent is even stronger. Then I can stop my colleagues in the office and show them pictures, too.
[Gregory K. Moffatt, Ph.D., is a college professor, published author, licensed counselor, certified professional counselor supervisor, newspaper columnist and public speaker. He holds an M.A. in Counseling and a Ph.D. in Psychology from Georgia State University and has taught at the college level for over 30 years. His website is gregmoffatt.com.]