Saturday, May 7, 2011

Day 123: Dear Dad

Most of conscious parenting boils down to self-awareness - because ultimately it's about us and our reactions to our children, not about them and their behavior. And the process of becoming self-aware requires you to take a good, hard look at the way you were parented - because, for better or worse, we are who we are in large part because of our family environment and the choices our parents made for us in our formative years.

Sometimes this is expressed in our own parenting through imitation, other times the opposite, but we're always reacting to our baseline, the "normal" we grew up with.

Since so much of this is just ingrained in us, we tend not to have to think about it unless we want to change it. Enter this blog, an effort to overcome some of the less than perfect defaults that were set for me (and which, of course I had a hand in setting as well).

But what I've failed to mention as I write my way through this journey is that for every negative default, I can point to as many positive traits. And for every experience I'd like to change, I cherish at least a hundred others.

Processing the negative is essential to growth, but so is acknowledging and reinforcing the positive! So in an effort to balance out my pessimistic tendency, I'm going to focus on that in two posts that I'll write as public letters to my parents. I'll start with Dad today and hopefully find time to get to a post for Mom on Mother's Day tomorrow!

I've met only one man in my life whose integrity can even come close to matching yours, I married him. It was your unwavering character and your commitment to honesty and faithfulness that colored my definitions of 'husband' and 'father.' Because of you, I knew that such a man existed, and this kept me from settling for less than what I deserved in a partner. Every joy I experience in my marriage is a reminder of how I am forever grateful to you for that.

It was that same integrity along with your guidance and trust that kept me from straying too far from self-respect in the years when it's so easy to do so. You showed me, through your relationship with me and your intense passion for your marriage, that I deserved to be loved, sought after, and cherished; and though my life has certainly not been free of heartache, it saved me from so much pain. 

Knowing that I had your approval and love kept me from searching for those things in the wrong places. Your confidence, in yourself and in me, along with your unconditional acceptance gave me permission to be different and made it easy to reject conformity. Obviously this has come in handy!

Your protection showed me how much I was valued and helped me value and protect myself as I moved out from under your loving care. You taught me to assert myself and stand up for those who couldn't do the same - a principle that now guides so much of what I do and who I am.

Your great commitment to God and truth left a lasting impression on me. It was your refusal to accept spiritual mediocrity and hypocrisy that brought me through the disappointing and damaging church experiences of my childhood still somehow able to find authentic faith on the other side.

Your relentless pursuit of knowledge has influenced the course of my life so significantly. This is such an integral part of my person that I can't imagine who I would be without it.

And I hope you don't mind if I out you as a softy, but your kind heart and compassion are a reminder that strength doesn't have to be cold and hard. 

Of course I've only barely scratched the surface, and while these are the things that stand out, there are too many more for me to name.

So if you ever think I'm getting down on you through this process or if you carry any personal regrets, remember you're the one who helped me become who I am - a person willing and determined to embrace humility, chase growth and never let good enough satisfy. Know that I don't harbor any of those same regrets and that I'm thankful for all of the experiences that shaped me. And every time you're proud of me, take credit. My achievements are as much yours as they are mine.

1 comment:

  1. Meri,

    It's difficult to type through the tears, but thanks for your words of blessing and encouragement. I'm not sure I recognize the person depicted in the photo and described in your post, but as you say, life is a journey and hopefully we're all in the process of becoming the person God created us to be. From my perspective, you have not only surpassed me on this journey, you have also been a great help and blessing to me along the way. I am not only very proud of you, I am indebted to you! You will always be my cherished "Princess".