Today is the 9th year anniversary of my dad’s death. In a lot of ways, it’s hard to believe, because he died well before his time at age 55. There are a lot of memories I don’t get to share with him, things I often wonder how he would react, what he would think, and generally what he would be doing with his life, likely retired from dairy-farming. I’d imagine he’d be spending a ton of time with his grandkids, my older sister’s little boys…….
I think the hardest thing for me is, I wonder what my dad would be thinking of the life I’m living now. What would he think of my choices, decisions, how I invest my life, my work? I think that is what I miss the most, because whenever I would question any of those things about my life, my dad always responded with 5 little words, at just the right time:
I am proud of you.
I know in today’s world, every one says it’s the “three words” that matter (I love you, in case you were wondering). Yet I think in a world where people move in and out of love so easily and so often, where love is just this very fluid thing, I don’t think it holds as much power as these 5 words. Because while love expresses how you may feel about someone in that moment, and it feels good for a bit, saying “I am proud of you” means something entirely more profound:
I am paying attention to you and your life.
I am not ashamed of you.
I am willing to claim you as one of mine.
I really see goodness and potential in you.
In our shame-based world, a world where we’re compared, in competition, having to perform, needing to succeed and produce……much of what we do often leads to the self view that we’re failures, we’re worthless, and what we do and we ourselves are meaningless. Nothing we do is seen, or matters. I see that with a lot with my wrestlers….and I try to say it to them as much as I can. When I do, I see how it changes them, just as it changed me when my dad said them. I was seen; I was known; and I was not alone. I had worth.
So parents, uncles, aunts, any adult who spends time with kids in their lives:
5 little words….but perhaps the most important ones we can say to them. Words that change lives; words that matter.