“What does it matter what I do? I know you’re just going to tell me the same thing over and over. You’ll be disappointed in me and still classify me with dirt.”
I don’t try to stop the words coming out of my mouth. I have held them back so many times in the past, so many hard times in the past; I am done holding back. I am done shielding him. I am finished protecting his feelings. It is time to say what must be said.
The look on my father’s face is one of stern surprise. “I don’t classify you with dirt. Where did you get that idea?” He looks at me with angry, disappointed eyes across the dining room table we are seated at.
The rest of the family has long since deserted the scene, leaving us alone with our most recent “disagreement.” They know this raising of voices would either end with both parties upset, or, hopefully, at peace.
I look away, tears pressing at my eyes. I am desperate for him to get it. For him to understand me. But it never fails: he never does. “You make me feel like it.” I say it quietly. “I never make you happy.” I give him a look that is as close to a glare as I can get without crossing the line into the realm of disrespect, a line I am positive I see clearly, and have seen clearly all of my life. All of my twenty-nine years. “I’m not what you want—what you think I should be, and, for that, you just make me pay! Make me pay by withholding your approval, your encouraging words, your respect… You treat complete strangers better than you treat me!”
My father retorts, “I do not!”
“Yes, you do! Every Sunday at church!” A stupid, single tear escapes down my face. “You never hold back your encouraging words to someone at church. But, me, your own daughter, you hold back! It’s like you don’t even see how I try! You don’t see how I try to please you! How I have tried all these years to get your applause—it’s like ‘keep trying, maybe you’ll reach my high expectations for you next time’.”
I know I have just stepped directly on that line. My toes touch disrespect. My father’s eyes flash with defense.
“You please me!!” He barks back, angry that I said such things.
“Oh yeah? And when was the last time you read something I wrote? Are you embarrassed that I write? I have lots of people who can’t wait for the next thing I’m going to put out there, and my own father hasn’t read a single thing I’ve written since I was a teenager! Sounds like you’re trying to not encourage something… On purpose.” I wipe away my tears, my anger fading to what fueled it: simple hurt.
My father draws back, dark eyes searching for words. “Well—”
I shake my head, rescuing him from his loss, “I know I don’t have the career you think I should have, but I work hard! I pay my bills! Shouldn’t that at least please you? You taught me that! To be responsible!”
“I am proud of you for that!” My father throws in hastily.
“Yeah? Well, in the four years that I’ve held down my job, I’ve never once heard you say that.”
“Well, I thought you knew. Of course I’m proud of you for having the same job for four years.”
I wipe away another batch of tears, my voice full of defeat, “Then why don’t you say something? Why do you hold back?… Aren’t I worth the effort?”
To my surprise, my father’s eyes fill with distress, his voice lowers. “You’re worth it… I just…” He presses his lips together, and then says, “I don’t know how.”
I blink, not understanding. I wait for him to speak.
His voice is soft when he finally elaborates, “I didn’t have a dad to teach me that… And no one in my family said anything encouraging. Ever.” He looks away, uncomfortable with what he is sharing. “I guess I need to practice.”
I realize how vulnerable my father is being. This is big. I sniff back tears, my eyes fixed on the man that has been there all of my life. The man that has been to piano recitals, softball games, tennis matches, and recognition dinners. The man that has been my spiritual leader and covering, praying for me fervently as I have grown into a woman. He’s being truthful. Honest. Painfully out-there.
He meets my gaze, his eyes misty. “I don’t want you to ever feel like dirt. God made you more than that. You are a very special lady.”
I swallow hard, touched.
He tells me quietly, “I’m sorry.”
I tear up again.
We speak for awhile longer, but all I can remember that night are the two apologetic words, and how, wrapped within them, were the three words, “I love you.”
Beautiful touching story and a wonderful reminder that we should be mindful to always encourage our children in a manner that they can appreciate and understand. Thank you so much for the post.
Thank you, Mike.
The post pretty much made me speechless. But there is a lesson to learn for us as [future] parents… even if we didn’t have something in our lives, we can pay special attention so our kids don’t feel like that.
And encouragement is so important. For kids and not just for kids.
Thanks for sharing, Keviana.
Zee, you’re so awesome to remind me of that. It’s true, one day, by God’s grace, we will be parents. We must be sure that they know how accepted, cherished, wanted, and loved they are!
Thank you for your thoughts, Girl. <3
Heh, your comment reminded me of an exchange in Ted Dekker’s Black. There, people and Roush (similar to angels) gathered together to celebrate the Elyon’s Great Romance (God’s love). Tanis, one of the leaders of the people, would say a phrase, and everyone echoed it.
“Remember, he chooses.”
The imagery that Ted paints with words is too beautiful to describe in a comment. Long story short, every time I read that part of the book, I read it out loud. Ah. Love it.
That is beautiful!
I have a father who struggles with expressing emotion. He didn’t cry at his son’s funeral a few weeks ago. I rarely hear words of encouragement, if ever, and he has never read a single word I’ve written. But when he looked at my soul and said, “we need to spend more time together,” those were my “I love you” words. You said it well Kevi, I felt every tear.
I can’t imagine your Dad has never read your words…unbelievable. I didn’t realize how blessed was growing up. I just posted about this yesterday about my Dad’s words to me…..my heart breaks for so many people like you and Keviana. Can’t imagine not reading your wonderful words if I were your parents 🙂
Heehee, I like the way you think. Thanks. <3
Sometimes we have to look and listen hard, huh?
And sometimes, we have to look at their past actions and remember those equal love, too… Though I still desire the words. The mention. The “reminder.” Like, today. Now. (:
We both write for a Father that delights over how we put our hearts out there and dance with words. And He NEVER misses a single word.
Now I want to sit down and have coffee with you.
Dear Sheila, you are so precious. Thank you. *hugs*
What a great post! My dh struggles with this feeling too, of never matching up to his mother’s expectation (his father has died) and I wish so much that she would show her son unconditional love and acceptance.
Lis, God knows. Some days I’m forced to believe that I’m only receiving grace for today. I wish that I could guarantee that I will get all the love and affirmation I require to feel whole tomorrow, and the next day, and the next, but that’s not the way God set this up. Each day is a gift. Keep praying for your mil. Maybe God will open her eyes. All isn’t lost until God says it is. In the meantime, your husband is blessed to have you.
Wonderful Keviana……a very good reminder that we need to tell others how proud we are of them, not just parent to child, but child to parent and friend to friend, as well. Great story!
Thank you. I appreciate your words. Affirmation is something that is vital, no matter what the age. <3
Beautifully written, Keviana. And true for many of us. Fathers are so, so important in the lives of their children – and yet so many of them have never been fathered well themselves. How do they learn? Well, a lot of the time – they learn from their children. You taught your father something deeply important, even transformative, in this exchange. (I don’t know what you mean by ‘spiritual covering,’ so I’m guessing you are from a very different tradition than my own. But the universal truth here is strongly told. And beautifully told. Thank you.)
Thank you, Diana. That meant a lot. <3
Oh dear… I think I just might cry! Thank you for such a soul moving post, Keviana! It really touches me to know that there are reasons behind why kids struggle to love their parents (and that I am not the only one). The Bible says to honor (aka respect) our parents, we all practically got that. But where is the love? The kids aren’t understood, the parents aren’t understood, and everything just falls down into one, big mess. Miscommunication is becoming a large part of everyday American families- and when the families fall, the nation falls. I will take note of this and hold it close to my heart so that one day, when I have kids, such a ditch of confusion can be avoided. I pray that He leads you in a closer relationship with you dad. 🙂 Have a blessed day, Keviana!
I hear you, Calissa. Thank you for sharing, and for that special blessing. I receive it!