“I will always love you. I will never lie to you. Always listen to my voice.”
Those three statements where whispered in my daughter’s ear as we began our trust walk. Sarah Mac, my 16 year old daughter, was blindfolded and it was my job to help navigate her through the woods near the Satilla River. The first third of the walk I could put my hands on her shoulders to guide her and give her direction. The middle of the walk I could only use my hands on her shoulders to guide her…I couldn’t speak. The final third of the walk I was not allowed to guide or speak. I could only assist IF Sarah asked for help. When she would ask, I could answer her questions. Along the way, some of the leaders would try to encourage Sarah to go the wrong way. She would ask if they were telling the truth. They weren’t, of course.
At the end of the walk, we debriefed. We talked about our fears and feelings. As I reflected, I quickly became aware that the trust walk in the woods near the Satilla River really wasn’t very scary at all. If Sarah ran into a tree (as horrible as that sounds) we could simply clean her up and put a bandage on her scrape. The real fear came in knowing that as a father I won’t always be there to guide or even answer her questions when she asks. If she is confronted with a challenge in life, will she stop and take time to call me and ask. Not always. I know that and you do too. That’s why its so important to take seriously each and every modeling moment in life. They truly matter! We always wonder, have we done enough? Have we given her enough resource, knowledge, and direction?
There are many hard parts of parenting. As we move into the final two years of high school, you look back over the past 16 years and wonder, “Have we done enough?” This requires a tremendous amount of trust. I’m not sure many parents don’t wonder about the same thing. Even if we are concerned, the reality is we can’t make up in two years what we haven’t done in 16. Not only is it nearly impossible to impart that knowledge in that time frame, the biggest obstacle is that your 16, 17, or 18 year old is not as receptive to those lessons now as they would have been at 7, 8, or 9.
Our weekend together was special and it really helped us to see how important our bond is. No matter how strong our relationship, there are always struggles. The Hearts United Father Daughter weekend reminded me of two amazing and invaluable lessons:
- There is no substitute for intentional time set apart in relationships. The old debate of quality vs. quantity is very simple. It is hard to achieve depth of quality without time. We must be intentional about the time we carve out with our children. I know there are situations that prevent us from sharing the time we would like (for example, several dads on the weekend are divorced and only see their daughters once per week or every other weekend). We have to do whatever we can to make that time happen. There is no substitute for time. The greatest gift of the weekend is that it forced me to carve out my entire weekend and devote it to my daughter. I wouldn’t have traded it for anything!
- Children need encouragement. Our children long for encouragement from their parents. My daughter longs for encouragement from me. I realized that I need to do a better job with my words of encouragement. The Losada Ratio proves this to be true. If you want your family to flourish, you must speak 5 words of encouragement for every word of criticism. This ratio leads to a flourishing life. Less than that leads to a languishing life. More than anything, I want my daughters to flourish!