I had a short encounter today with a stranger that led to this article. I was out and about town this morning and was in a park for a break, parents had brought their kids out to play before the afternoon rain started. I noticed a father and son that came to a bench near me. As the dad sat town on the bench, and the son ran to the other kids, the dad yelled at his son.
“Hey!” The son stopped, turned and looked at his dad.
“Be careful. I love you.”
“I love you too dad.”
And off he ran.
I thought about that for a few minutes. I thought about my dad and my daughter. My dad told me he loved me once, and even that was only after I had said to my brother (in front of him) that dad had never said he loved me. I think I was about 32 or 33. That was when he finally said it, but he used more than three words and it was only because of what I had said to my brother (he said, “Well I do, I always have). And he never said it again. So, it did not mean that much to me.
My daughter on the other hand, we always tell each other we love each other. We look each other straight in the eye and say it several times during the day. And those “I love you’s” are accompanied by hugs and kisses as well. And any time we walk anywhere, we always walk hand in hand. I also try to do the things that she likes as often as I can, so she knows I am interested in her and care deeply about her.
I thought about these things and turned and looked at the young dad.
“Do you always tell your son that?”
“No. I love you.”
We were looking at each other during this exchange. But, as he turned to look at his son he answered me.
“Yes. My dad never told me he loved me, so I try to tell my son and daughter often.”
“My dad never told me either.”
“My dad did love me I knew that, he just never said it,” the young father said. We were looking at each other again.
“He told my sister he loved her once in a while, but he never told me.”
“I had two younger brothers, no sister,” I said.
“I think it was just easier for him to tell my sister that,” he said.
I bid them good bye and headed back to the car. The young father had got me to thinking. My grandfathers told me, and even one of my great-uncles, but never dad. That affected me and how I am with my daughter, friends, and family. I’ll say it to my friends, but when I write it out I write “I luv you,” or “I luv ya.” I do that because they are important to me, but to me those 8 words are special and only for a very few. Those who are most important to me get all 8 letters, I reserve that for them. I continued to think about this. I wondered how many men did not say it often or hear their dads say it often.
I messaged a couple of my submarine buddies and asked them the question I’d asked that young father. The answers we pretty much the same. Only one of my buddies said his dad often told him that he loved him. Then I asked them if they told their kids they loved them. I got mixed results. They told their daughters, and a couple told their sons. Most though never told their kids (or their wives) they love them.
I thought about my brothers too. I was 40 before my brothers and I would tell each other we loved each other. Usually at the end of a phone call, but nowhere near as often as I tell my daughter, we will say I love you and that’s about it.
I was looking at my results. What I came away with is this. As dads it is much easier for us to tell our daughters we love them. We can tell our wife we love her, but we rarely say it. Our sons hear it least of all – if at all.
Dads we need to change this. Those 8 letters are the most powerful 8 letters you can tell your wife and kids. It is good that you show them, and they know you love them, but that is not enough. You need to look your wife in the eyes, you need to look your kids in the eyes, and say, “I love you.”
I know it is hard sometimes. But we need to start telling those who are most important in our life that we love them. If it is hard for you to say, and you don’t say it often, start out slow. If you suddenly start saying it often after years of never saying it you will scare them. They will think you have a bad disease or something. So, don’t scare them. But, start saying it. Say it at birthdays and Christmas, start however you want. But say it, and make sure you say it in a way that they know you mean it.
Remember how much it would have meant to you if your dad had said he loved you to you? It means that much and maybe more to your kids and wife. So let’s start telling those most important to us –
I love you!