A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a very personal post on parenting and faith. In that same spirit of sharing about my life (which is not always something that’s easy for me to do), I want to talk about the most important lesson I plan to teach my daughter as she gets older. It’s a lesson that’s taken me years to learn and it’s something that, even as someone who tends to think logically and objectively, I still struggle with from time to time.
The way people treat you has nothing to do with you.
It has everything to do with them.
I am the adult by product of divorce. My father, who retired after serving twenty years in the United States Air Force, and my mother, who made her career working with new and expecting parents in Labor and Delivery, divorced in the mid-nineties. About a year later, my brother and I, along with our mother, relocated to the East Coast where we lived until I started college. My junior high and high school years were a whirlwind. Full of changes in our family structure, adjustments to a different life, and an assortment of other things that are irrelevant to this post. My relationship with my dad changed very little throughout the years in that it was, at best, distant. With lengthy deployments under his belt from the time he spent serving our country, I didn’t know that our relationship could have been any different and I spent years excusing his absence from my life on physical distance and busy schedules. One thing always remained the same, I love my dad. Always.
The issue is that the way that I express love is so vastly different from the way my own father does and, in the past, it left me feeling inadequate, undervalued, and unloved.
The little time that I did spend with my dad in my own childhood was wonderful. I have fun memories like the time we attended the “Father/Daughter Dance” when I was young or the vacation we took together to Orlando when I was a teenager. It’s easy to let those moments become overshadowed by the lack of communication in our day to day lives. The same can be said for my father’s relationship with my own daughter.
As my daughter grows and begins to understand more about the World, I want to give her the gift of understanding. It’s something that’s taken me years to figure out on my own. I want her to understand that the way that other people interact with and treat you represents who they are, not the other way around.
I want her to know that she’s worthwhile, good, and amazing.
I want her to know that the only thing that defines who she is as an individual is the way that treats herself, others, and the World around her.
I want her to know the one thing that I’ve spent years figuring out: That we’re all different. The way I express my love for those around me may not be the same as the way my own father does but that has nothing to do with me.
Simply put: Take the good, leave the bad.