My friend Gerry gave me the permission to share his story which was published in my book Imprint Journey. So here it goes:
I am the father of three boys and a girl. My family is a "normal" family. For years while I ran a successful business, my wife was home; she raised the children and was involved in their schools and in our church. People who looked at us used to tell me, "You are so lucky."
Well on the outside yes, I was lucky, but on the inside it was different. My children avoided me; they did not want to talk to me. First, I just thought they were busy with school; then they were gone to college. Not until my oldest son got married and had his first child did I realize something was truly wrong. My son did not want his child to be near me. That hurt. So one day when my children were all visiting, I asked them to tell me what was wrong.
To my great surprise, they told me. "Dad you were never there for us. When you were, you were running this home like your board meeting. You were barking orders at us. You never encouraged us. No matter how much we succeeded, it was never enough for you."
My oldest son, with tears in his eyes, said to me, "Do you remember the day I scored my first home run? I was so happy. No, you were not at the game; I was used to that. I came home all excited to tell you the news. You started shouting at me; you called me by my brother's name and asked me when I would grow up and start taking life seriously instead of wasting my time on baseball. To you it did not matter what any of us needed, wanted, or loved. To you, it was your way or the highway. As long as you provided, your job was done. I don't know you, Dad. I have nothing to talk about with you. You never told me what you were afraid of. You never shared what is really meaningful to you. When we were sick, you were on the phone or gone. When we succeeded at anything, you were not there to cheer us on. We don't know you, Dad. Who are you besides being the CEO? Who are you, Dad, besides the orders that you scream? I do not want my child to be barked at. I want my child to feel safe. We never did."
When my son was finished speaking, all my children left. My wife went to her den, and I was left to think. My son's words hurt to the core, and I realized that I had missed the boat. I decided to go get some help on parenting, I knew how to run a company. I had no clue on how to be a father, much less a dad.
I ended in treatment listening to so many similar stories. I realized that I did to my children what I had been taught by my father. Dad had been an army general, and his children had been his private little army. He barked orders; he did not have time for "feelings" - that was women's stuff. Dad was taking care of "real" and "serious" business.
My imprint of parenting was: A father is a provider and cannot be bothered with raising the kids; that is the wife's job. A father needs to give orders. You don't tell your children what they did well or they will become boastful. To be obeyed, you must keep your distance.
That day I cried. I realized that I hadn't known my father; we were never close. I can't tell you whether he was happy or miserable; I can't tell you what were his hopes and dreams. The worst part was that he was dead. He was gone, so I would never know him now. At the same time, I realized I did not know my children either.
In treatment, I put down on paper my values, my dreams, my hopes, my regrets, and my gratitude. I wrote pages and realized how love is the one gift that needs to be given now. I wrote letters to all my children, I asked for their forgiveness; I told them things about me that I never knew were there. I asked them to reveal themselves to me. I did not want to die and be known as the CEO; I wanted to be a dad and a granddad. My children and my wife came to my family week. I was not an "Addict" like the substance addicts. My disease was my emotional unavailability, my need for control, and my fear of vulnerability. My wife did a tremendous job with our children. They felt courageous enough to tell me the truth. I took it; I changed. My new IMPRINT is: I am a Daddy. A Daddy understands, supports, loves, discloses his vulnerabilities. admits his mistakes, is present and teaches by example.
Now in our home. everyone is free to be who he or she really is. My grandkids run to me, and I tell them stories of how great their parents are. It is never too late. Love changes everything and brings freedom to all. "
Thank you Gerry for your willingness to change, heal, grow, repair past mistakes. Yes Love changes, heals and transforms everything. Thank you for reminding us what matters.