real life

"These are the 3 things that I wish my father had told me before he died."

I was raised in a loving and secure home growing up, and I knew that my dad loved me.

I knew that because he told me so throughout my life—since I was a little boy until the last time I saw him before he died of a heart attack at age 64.

I was 38 when my father died. Even though I was a grown man, it was difficult dealing with that loss.

I knew that my dad loved me, but I wish he told me more.

While I had a lot of positive memories and shared experiences with my dad while he was alive, one of the unexpected things that I grieved when he was gone was the fact that there were conversations we would never have together—things never said.

While I’m not a needy person, there are some things I needed from my father—just like every other man.

MORE: Zelda Williams has a new tattoo in honour of her late father Robin.

Unfortunately I didn’t get all of those needs met growing up, even though both my parents loved me.

My wife and I have three kids, and we strive to make sure all of their needs are met—even though I am still personally lacking in some areas.

Specifically, there are three things that I wish my father had told me while he was alive, that I routinely tell my kids.

1. “I believe in you.”

This is something that every son and daughter needs to hear from their father. The world, and “haters” in general, pose more than enough challenges to a child’s vision, dreams, and goals.

If my dad had come alongside and told me he believed in me and that I could do it—that encouragement would have been enough to inspire me to try again.

I gave up on several such youthful dreams and goals because I couldn’t believe or see beyond the momentary setbacks I experienced then.

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“It’s simply stunning to me the number of men who have never heard their father utter the words, ‘I’m proud of you.'” (Photo: iStock)
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Looking back, if my dad had come alongside and told me he believed in me and that I could do it—that bit of encouragement would have been enough to inspire me to try again.

As fathers we have an obligation to our kids to help them endure challenges and obstacles by sharing our experience, insight and perspective.

When our kids face challenges or failures, we need to hold them and tell them, “I’ve been where you are. You can overcome this setback—I believe in you.”

What child, young or old, doesn’t want and need to hear that from their father?

Read more: Father’s choice: Being a progressive Dad or protecting ‘Daddy’s little girl’?

2. “I want to spend time with you”

My parents worked hard to clothe and feed all five of us kids. Even though my dad loved us—he didn’t spend a lot of individual time with any of us.

Independent of his love for me, the lack of outreach on his part always left a gnawing question as to whether or not he actually liked me as a person.

Don’t misunderstand, he was in our home every day in a positive manner, but he didn’t regularly interact with us on an individual basis.

He would read aloud to all of us kids sometimes and sing songs with us collectively in the car—those are fond memories of mine—but he rarely spent individual time with his children.

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“My dad rarely initiated contact with me… as his son, I wanted him to reach out for me—to want to be with me.” (Photo: iStock)

My entire life my dad never threw a football, baseball, or Frisbee with me. He never sat down and played Legos with me, or He-man or Hot Wheels.

Even when I became an adult, my dad rarely initiated contact with me. I understand in retrospect that wasn’t his personality style. But as his son, I wanted him to reach out for me—to want to be with me.

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Completely independent of his love for me, that lack of outreach on his part always left a gnawing question as to whether or not he actually liked me as a person.

While that may seem silly to some, I never want my kids to grow up with that question.

For more: Why the ‘dumb dads’ myth is holding us back.

3. “I’m proud of you.”

It’s simply stunning to me the number of men who have never heard their father utter the words, “I’m proud of you.”

This world would be a profoundly different place if every child was told by their dad how proud he was of them individually.

I don’t know why dads don’t say this more often—not one of my closest friends ever heard these words from their respective fathers. I don’t understand it.

This world would be a profoundly different place if every child was told by their dad how proud he was of them individually.

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“Not one of my closest friends ever heard these words from their respective fathers. I don’t understand it.” (Photo: iStock)

I’m not taking about performance-driven drivel or some kind of self-esteem-building fakery. At some point, every child does something that’s right, beautiful, praiseworthy, and worthy of a fathers’s pride.

My kids will never have to ask themselves—or anyone else—if I’m proud of them, despite the fact that I still don’t know for sure if my dad was proud of me.

When it comes to raising kids, love and security top the list of needs—I get that—but I also know there are some age-old holes in my heart that I wish my dad could have helped fill.

That’s a wish my kids will never have.

This post originally appeared on The Good Men Project and is republished here with permission. 

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