Ask guys about the first thing they remember, and there he’ll be. Somewhere in the picture is their dad. In my first memory, I’m standing in front of the mirror wearing my brand-new white short-sleeved shirt with a big blue and red stripe across the front. First-grade school pictures are today. My dad is combing my hair so it’ll look right . . . like I’m cared for at home. That was a big deal for Daddy . . . everything he had was clean and well groomed.
If you saw the picture they took of me that day, in my cute white shirt and slicked down hair, you’d think, “Aww . . . how cute! How perfect.” Even if there was a picture of my dad combing my hair in that bathroom, you might think the same thing. But if you were me . . . or if you saw the video version, you’d remember the heat of the room, the stress of a man in a hurry doing something he didn’t like to do. You’d remember the tone of his voice when he fussed, “WILL YOU STAND STILL?!?” “I AIN’T GOT ALL DAY!”
For most of us, that’s the paradox called “Dad.” “Daddy.” “Pop.”
Did he love you? Sure.
Did you feel it? Not so sure.
Most of what I remember of my dad and early life is announced in the pictures I have. Dredging up the rest is hard, especially when you’re older and the other people who were there are no longer around. But just like my first-grade picture, when I think hard and remember hard, the picture becomes a movie, and I remember what was happening . . . how it felt . . . the message packaged alongside that tiny papercut.
If life is anything, it’s daily. And if we’re honest, it’s not even that. It’s not even hours or minutes . . . it’s second-by-second. It’s not posed. It’s experienced. Our earliest experiences usually involve our dads or whoever’s assigned that role.
If you’re a dad, choose to be kind. Always be kind, no matter what your kid says, or does, or doesn’t do. What he’ll remember won’t be still shots, they’ll be movies. Make sure your words and your tone always communicate kindness. How you talk to your young sons and daughters will have a profound impact on their lives. Make sure the soundtrack to their movie is one of kindness, not criticism.
Scripture: Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4)