Not many of you know this about me, but I absolutely adore my kids.
Well, maybe you did know that, but I don’t think you understand how much. Let me try to explain.
One of my kids got off the bus one day and walked down the sidewalk toward our house. Even from down the street, I saw the tears streaming down my child’s face. Seeing that they were in no immediate danger and there was no visible injury, I walked down the street to my child and knelt down. “What’s wrong, bud?”
“I messed up, Dad,” my child mumbled meekly.
“What happened?” I asked wondering what on earth my child could have done to bear so much shame and regret.
“I failed my class,” my child said, holding back sobs. “I won’t be able to pass, and I’m afraid you will be mad at me!” Weeping ended the explanation from my child, so I carried the conversation, and my child, back to our home.
“Sweetheart, I don’t care that you failed. I don’t even care if you tried your very hardest and still failed. I will always love you, even if you fail all of the classes. I don’t love you because of what you do, but because of who you are.”
Another of my kids got a job and a new set of friends and stopped coming to see me very often. I would text them to let them know I loved them and was thinking of them. I would send them pictures of memories with them and would let them know there is always a seat at the dinner table saved for them.
My kid almost never replied. When they did, it was short – “k thanks dad” or “love you too” or “see you soon, maybe this weekend” – but I rarely saw my child.
Every day I think about the child who doesn’t come around. Every time I go out, I hope I might run into my child, just to see their face, hear about their day, or maybe even hear them laugh.
I always love it when my children laugh. There’s no better sound in the world.
Another of my children came home one day after being gone for months. It was clear they were running with the wrong crowd, barely hiding addictions and probably some criminal activities.
“I’m leaving, dad.”
“Town?” I asked, hopefully.
“The country. Don’t follow me. I don’t want to see you again. I don’t need or want your help. Just stay out of my life.”
“I will always love you,” I said.
My child left, a shower of expletives the last words they spoke to me.
After several months I heard my child was in Europe, destitute, strung out, and abandoned.
I sold my house, bought a plane ticket, and arrived within days. I found my child, alone and near death, and cradled them in my arms.
My child opened their eyes, shock and disgust washing over their face, and said, “I hate you.”
“Well,” I responded, “I will love you no matter what.”
Some of my children ask me if there is anything they could ever do to make me stop loving them.
Some of them are ashamed of what they have done, thinking they can lose my love.
Some of them are proud of how good they are, not knowing they don’t have to try to earn what I freely give.
They don’t know what it means to be their Dad. But they will know, one day.