This past year has been very enlightening for me as I look back over the past 12 months and remember how I reacted or responded to the trivial as well as the major challenges and opportunities presented to me by my children.
Some may argue that the larger issues or problems are still really just small or trivial in most cases and just blown out of proportion by an over-reactive father or parent. And I would have to plead guilty as charged.
And as I recall conversations with other parents over the past year I have been reminded that it's not just my children who get into trouble or make mistakes, it seems as though we have raised an entire generation of trouble-seeking and mistake-prone children as my friends and neighbors all share similar stories. That old saying, “misery loves company,” could apply here, but I really have found no comfort in thinking about it that way.
I love my children dearly, and I would have to agree that in most cases I could have responded better instead of over-reacting and making things worse or under-reacting and not doing enough. The life lesson in this for me is to learn how to take the time to respond instead of react. I know they sound very similar and some would say that they mean the very same thing. The difference, I believe, is found in the way we think about each word.
If we were to get sick and our doctor prescribed a medication that caused us to break out in a rash or some other side effect, it could be said that we are having a “negative reaction” to the medication. Conversely, if we were prescribed that same medication and started improving immediately, we would say we were “responding favorably” to the medication.
And as a dad, I can look back over the past 12 months as well as an entire lifetime and remember all the little mistakes and huge errors I have made. And thankfully my children have not over-reacted, they have simply responded and loved me and forgiven me in the same way that I have loved and forgiven them. That is the wonderful thing about forgiveness, it goes both ways, and it goes such a long way in building and sustaining loving relationships with our family and friends. And forgiveness costs us nothing when we give it, but costs us everything when we withhold it.
If you are one of those dads or parents that I have spoken with or exchanged emails with or that just feels like you have had a brutally tough year with a noncompliant child, trouble-attracting teen, or mistake-magnet kid, just remember that as big as each of those challenges seem, at the end of the day they are all just trivial. And it's not about how we react, it is how we choose to respond, love and forgive that will be the difference-maker in all of our relationships.
Happy Father's Day! I would love to hear all about how your Father's Day weekend goes at firstname.lastname@example.org, and let's respond our way to a better than good week.
Michael Norton, a resident of Highlands Ranch, is the former president of the Zig Ziglar organization and CEO and founder of www.candogo.com