“I taught you that?” my dad asked me quietly.
I was having brunch with my parents on Mother’s Day when I first realized that my dad had doubts about whether he had made much of an impact on his only daughter’s life. I forget now how the topic came up, but we had been discussing how it seems that most people can’t drive without a GPS these days. However, if you lose cell reception or your battery dies, you have to rely on the old-school technology of reading a map.
“I am so glad you taught me how to read a map and to navigate my way around,” I laughed as I sipped my coffee that morning. “It has helped me in my daily life and all my travels!” That’s when my dad stopped eating and asked me that question.
“What do you mean?” I exclaimed. “Of course, you did!”
When I turned 16, my parents gave me a key to the family car. My dad also handed me a spiral-bound map of every street and neighborhood in the area. He showed me how to look up where I wanted to go, find it in the book and then navigate from my location.
“See! You taught me something that I’ve used every day since then, and I will going forward.” I gave him a hug. He wiped his eyes and said, “I didn’t know that. I didn’t know I had made a difference in your life.”
How hard it must be
It was in that moment that I came to a deeper appreciation of how hard it must be to parent a child. Proverbs 22:6 tells us, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”
I see parents making valiant efforts to do just that, but they have so much competition from outside influences. Friends, television, movies, social media—they are all influential factors in how children (and all of us) make decisions and develop character.
How can parents know whether they are getting through to their child? And when do those lessons stop? Once a child is out of high school? College? Starting a family of her own?
I think that we, children of all ages, can obey the Fifth Commandment to “honor your father and mother, that your days may be long” (Exodus 20:12) by acknowledging just how our parents have influenced our lives and helped mold us into the men and women we have become. It doesn’t matter if it’s something as basic as reading a map or something much deeper, such as learning how to honor, fear and love God.
A few weeks after that brunch, I was trying to decide what to get my dad for Father’s Day when I remembered our conversation and that his “love language” (defined by Gary Chapman in The Five Love Languages) is “words of affirmation.” So I made a collage of images and listed four things I learned from my dad.
I hadn’t given him a handmade gift since kindergarten, so he was quite surprised when he opened it and read it. He didn’t have to say thank you. I could see it in his eyes. Acknowledging that I wouldn’t be the same person without him was probably the best gift I could ever give him.
Yes, Dad, you made—and continue to make—a difference. You mattered. I love you! Happy Father’s Day!
For articles on building a strong family, see the “Family” section.