“Oh, wow... You have three daughters?!! Dad, you better get your shotgun ready!”
Lots of vulnerabilities exist in my effort to father my three little girls as a single parent. Little things may fall through the cracks here and there like hair and nails and most fashion related decisions, but one thing I am invariably good at is trust. I feel as though I’m a pro when it comes to adventure in their lives. But then again, I’ve always had an uncanny ability to swoop in, sweep them off their little steadying feet and launch them into motion. They love it. Them momentarily suspended in air just above the ground or flying through the air and room onto the couch. As they soar and float, even descending, a look lingers on their face. It’s a look that affirms me. Trust.
Without reason not to, they trust me completely. Up until this point, I’ve given them more reason to trust than not.
It’s quite simple. I’ve done what I said, I’d do. And when I mess up and don’t follow through, I apologize. I like to think of apologizing to my kids as emotional adventure taking them deeper into trust’s woods or higher and closer to trust’s summit.
Establishing and nurturing trust in a child’s heart is absolutely essential to healthy maturation. Without trust, a child grows sideways, roots shallow, leaving them emotionally malnourished.
Think of it plainly in this way::
absence of trust + unquenchable lack, never enough = they go looking
As a parent, you never have to be a pro or know all of the answers. In fact, the feeling of inadequacy can be an invaluable commodity. Not having all of the answers and making mistakes earns trust quicker than parenting from a pedestal.
Your primary objective in parenting should not be friendship at any cost. It should be friendship at great cost.
It will cost great effort in values of forgiveness and love on both ends. Placing high value and seriousness on friendship and relationship not only strengthens trust but also portrays healthy relationships in the giving and receiving.
Just as sweet as the trusting look lighting up their faces when I send them sailing through the air, the look they give sitting on the edge of their bed watching my eyes well up, holding wordless apologies before anything is spoken - that similar look that I see on their forgiving little face finds me.
Trust’s roots thrust deeper into the soil of their hearts and our relationship.
So I don’t anticipate needing to threaten some boy who has yet to earn their trust with the presence of a shotgun someday. I will have staked claim in my daughters’ hearts long before that kid steps foot on my scene. And I imagine (and hope), I’ll be quite fond of him because in some distinct way, he’ll resemble me.
That day, vulnerabilities won’t exist in my heart. If they do and I’m leaning on a shotgun to establish my place, I will have missed the mark.
My father effort is full here in establishing trust so that we find all that they need together and they won’t go looking somewhere else for what they think they need.
photograph by Jim Richardson