As often happens with me (anyone who has heard me in person will testify) I get focused on a topic, then research it, then something in that research captures my attention...(repeat several times), until I've basically played The Telephone Game all by myself. I start with one sentence but by the time I'm done feeding, altering, and feeding new, exciting facets of information into my squishy gray-matter, the final landing place is rarely near the simple thought that turned my initial query into a quest.
This time, where I started doesn't strike me as important as where I landed. I landed on a blog called UnTangled by Kelly M. Flanagan, PhD. Immediately I saw important work being done and I wanted to share with my family & friends. Here are two posts I'd like to share. You'll find the link to each original post in each title in case you might like to read more of his work or even if you're curious about the comments from his readers.
I'm so inspired by Dr. Flanagan that since I wrote letters to Cale when he was a baby, I plan to post one too. Maybe in a week. Then I wondered if this might be a cool opportunity! So, for family, friends, or my 6000 unidentified blog readers who haven't actually committed to follow me...which is cool, because I haven't actually committed to write, drop me a few meaningful words to your kids or whoever, and I'll post it with full credit to the writer (unless you specifically ask me not to identify you).
Happy Father's Day!
A Daddy’s Letter to His Little Girl (About Her Future Husband) April 17, 2013 — 410 Comments
Recently, your mother and I were searching for an answer on Google. Halfway through entering the question, Google returned a list of the most popular searches in the world. Perched at the top of the list was “How to keep him interested.”
It startled me. I scanned several of the countless articles about how to be sexy and sexual, when to bring him a beer versus a sandwich, and the ways to make him feel smart and superior.
And I got angry.
Little One, it is not, has never been, and never will be your job to “keep him interested.”
Little One, your only task is to know deeply in your soul—in that unshakeable place that isn’t rattled by rejection and loss and ego—that you are worthy of interest. (If you can remember that everyone else is worthy of interest also, the battle of your life will be mostly won. But that is a letter for another day.)
If you can trust your worth in this way, you will be attractive in the most important sense of the word: you will attract a boy who is both capable of interest and who wants to spend his one life investing all of his interest in you.
Little One, I want to tell you about the boy who doesn’t need to be kept interested, because he knows you are interesting:
I don’t care if he puts his elbows on the dinner table—as long as he puts his eyes on the way your nose scrunches when you smile. And then can’t stop looking.
I don’t care if he can’t play a bit of golf with me—as long as he can play with the children you give him and revel in all the glorious and frustrating ways they are just like you.
I don’t care if he doesn’t follow his wallet—as long as he follows his heart and it always leads him back to you.
I don’t care if he is strong—as long as he gives you the space to exercise the strength that is in your heart.
I couldn’t care less how he votes—as long as he wakes up every morning and daily elects you to a place of honor in your home and a place of reverence in his heart.
I don’t care about the color of his skin—as long as he paints the canvas of your lives with brushstrokes of patience, and sacrifice, and vulnerability, and tenderness.
I don’t care if he was raised in this religion or that religion or no religion—as long as he was raised to value the sacred and to know every moment of life, and every moment of life with you, is deeply sacred.
In the end, Little One, if you stumble across a man like that and he and I have nothing else in common, we will have the most important thing in common:
Because in the end, Little One, the only thing you should have to do to “keep him interested” is to be you.
Your eternally interested guy,
This post is, of course, dedicated to my daughter, my Cutie-Pie. But I also want to dedicate it beyond her.
I wrote it for my wife, who has courageously held on to her sense of worth and has always held me accountable to being that kind of “boy.”
I wrote it for every grown woman I have met inside and outside of my therapy office—the women who have never known this voice of a Daddy.
And I wrote it for the generation of boys-becoming-men who need to be reminded of what is really important—my little girl finding a loving, lifelong companion is dependent upon at least one of you figuring this out. I’m praying for you.
A Father’s Letter of Apology to His Boys (For Father’s Day) June 12, 2013 — 6 Comments
Today, I arrived at my office door, my mind spinning with countless concerns—house repairs and my therapy clients and blog comments and how to convince your mother I was right about something completely inconsequential. I found myself lost in the crowd of my various identities—homeowner, psychologist, writer, vindicated husband.
But then I found my office keys and the keychain you made me for Father’s Day and the three big, brightly-colored letters you inscribed upon it:
I got ambushed by my most important identity—Father. And I realized for an entire morning, like so many mornings before it, I had gotten distracted from my most sacred role by all of my perfectionism and sense of duty and fear of rejection and desire for affirmation.
And something inside of me cracked.
I think it was my ego—the voice inside telling me if I want to be good enough I have to look perfect, take care of everyone, win everybody over, and be right all the time.
Boys, I want to apologize for my fierce but fragile ego.
Boys, I want to apologize for all of the ways I let my ego prevent me from being the kind of father of which you are completely worthy:
I’m sorry for every time you’ve needed an embrace and I gave you something less because affection requires time and presence and vulnerability.
I’m sorry for every time the projects in my life have been more important than the people in my world.
I’m sorry for every time I’ve demanded respect, instead of earning it.
I’m sorry for every time I’ve said, “No,” simply because I can.
I’m sorry for every time I’ve told you to be humble and then turned around and acted like losing was the end of the world.
And I’m sorry for every time I didn’t say, “I’m sorry,” because they are, I’m learning, two of the most important words a father can say.
But mostly, Boys, I’m sorry for all the times I have communicated in subtle and not so subtle ways that your worth is conditional upon my approval or my mood or the consent of my fragile ego.
Boys, don’t let anyone—including me—convince you that your worth is rooted in anything so transient as another person’s opinion of you.
Your worth is conditional upon nothing.
You came into the world with infinite value and you will leave it in the same way, regardless of what you do or don’t do in this life. I know this seems too good to be true—in fact, many people will tell you it is a recipe for entitlement and narcissism—but if you can learn to trust it, you will be free.
Free from the game of ego inflation in which so many of us are constantly embroiled.
Free to live what is written on your souls, rather than what other people have written upon you with their own brokenness and wounds.
Free to love yourself—and therefore others, as well—without condition and without limit in a world that places every kind of condition upon love and belonging.
Free to create beauty and abundance in a world that seems to be threatened by both.
Free to become portals of grace in a world that thrives on shame and condemnation.
Boys, instead of placing conditions of worth upon you, I want to become a reflection of your worth—I want to mirror the awesome beauty I see in both of you, so you can begin to see it in yourselves.
In the end, Boys, I hope you can spend your lives knowing who you are, instead of constantly proving who you are.
With deep admiration for who you are, all the time, wherever you go, whatever you do,
After my last letter, an interviewer asked me what words I would have for my boys. My first thought was, “Just two words: I’m sorry.” Because those two words have the power to undermine the ego game in which boys and men are so often encouraged to compete.
So, I wrote this for my boys—because I want them to be free of the game.
And I wrote it for the men who have had the courage to sit in my office, to feel broken, to let their egos die, and to discover who they really are.
And I wrote it as a permission slip to a world of fathers who have an opportunity to fundamentally change the way our world works, by freeing the next generation from the game we play, one father and one son at a time.