I used to think that I had to do great things to be considered a good mom. Things like teaching my child phonics and reading before age 5, fixing 100% organic meals, spending hours playing with her and reading Goodnight Moon thrice before bedtime. And when I didn’t do these “bar-too-high” things, I pointed a guilty finger at myself. Half the time I’d walk around feeling bad about myself as a mom.
Sometimes it takes a life-changing event to see the things that really make a difference. My dad passed away this week and I am left reminiscing about the things he did for me and my siblings that made us feel loved. He didn’t have money or power or prestige. He didn’t buy us things–he barely had the money to feed his drug habit. Yet, I knew that he loved me. I would have preferred that he had spent more time with us and that we had a more normal home environment. Nevertheless, what he did leave me and my siblings is beyond anything money or even extended quality time could buy.
My father taught us to laugh. He was an avid Three Stooges fan and would often practice is slap sick on us kids. We feigned complaint but deep down, we knew it was his way of relating to us. Humor was his way of dealing with life and in the process, he taught us find joy and laughter any way we could. When we get together, it’s always a raucous, fun time because we tell jokes, pull pranks on one another and laugh, laugh, laugh.
The other thing my dad left us with is our faith. When he wasn’t laughing, he was reading his Bible and counseling us from God’s word. What a crazy combination; laughter and faith; Three Stooges and God’s word. Yet these are the tools he used to show his love. It was the only way he knew how.
My father’s life reminds me that we don’t have to be perfect as parents. Loving our kids doesn’t require money, a big house or extended vacations. Loving is in the way we do what we know how to do from our hearts. We all have something intrinsic to offer our children. For my dad it was humor and faith. For you it might be cloud watching or cooking or fixing motorcycles. Whatever it is, share it with your children. And when you are gone, they will know, like I know, how much they were loved.