September 17, 2015

How to Show Love to Your Children

There's something I appreciate now as an adult about a silly childhood memory that I didn’t back then...

I talk about my mom a lot. I think girls tend to be closer with their moms anyway, but since my parents split when I was six months old and an only child, my mom’s always been more like a sister or best friend than just a mom.

But in all of my reminiscing about my BFF mom, I don’t often talk about someone else very important: my dad. My dad is incredible. He’s an entrepreneur, a Vietnam veteran, a world traveler, and my personal inspiration for all things daring and adventurous. He’s piloted planes to the Virgin Islands to scuba dive and spear fish, traveled to more countries than I can even name, and has stories for days about all of his crazy near-death experiences. And all of those stories keep me on the edge of my seat and full of envy and admiration.

Of course, while I was growing up, my dad did what all parents famously do—embarrassed me regularly. I get it. I already embarrass Carter and he doesn’t even have a developed sense of social awareness. But there’s one occasion that I’ll never forget.

One Saturday night when I was staying at my dad’s house, he got a wild idea. He decided that he was going to curl my usually limp and straight-as-a-poker hair for church the next morning. Since he’d never curled another person’s hair before, he had no idea what he was doing. He curled it while it was wet in those little pink foam curlers from the ‘80s. But instead of using about 5–6 large curlers, which would have been more than enough to do the job on my shoulder-length fine hair, he decided to use about 40 tiny ones. I had no idea what was going on, other than I felt like I was getting a facelift because he pulled them so tight. He was thrilled with this plan, so I just went along with it. The next morning, he couldn’t wait for the big reveal. He took the curlers out one by one . . . and one by one, I was horrified. I went from being a cute, normal 6-year-old to looking like a blonde Mama from Mama’s Family. How to Show Love to Your Children

See, I can’t even look at the camera I’m so ashamed.

We didn’t have time to fix the damage before we left. My dad spent the car ride to church convincing me that it wasn’t as bad as I thought and bribing me to actually go in to Sunday school. Of course it was just as bad as I thought it was, and sitting through Sunday school was a slow torture. Some of the other kids patted my head to see if it was real hair, and one even asked if it was a wig!

But you know, I appreciate something about that silly memory today as an adult that I didn’t back then. That was one of countless examples of something that my dad was amazing at. When my dad was with me, he was really with me.

When I was at my dad’s house, he wasn’t working, distracted or multitasking. He showed me that I was his priority, he was fully present, and he lived out the meaning of quality time. It reminds me of a great quote by Zig Ziglar, “To a child, LOVE is spelled T-I-M-E.” Whether it was curling my hair into 1,000 tiny curlers, or reading me a story before bed, or teaching me how to drive a tractor, when my dad was with me, he was really with me.

I know we have hundreds more distractions and commitments today than my dad did in 1988, but the opportunity is the same. You don’t have to take your kids on adventures every day, and you don’t have to curl their hair into tiny curlers (In fact, please don’t!). And I know that sometimes you just have to get through the daily grind of laundry, dirty dishes, homework and errands. But let’s not underestimate the best and simplest way to show love to our children: time. When we’re with them, let’s really be with them. 

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  • Karen says:

    Kids know the difference between parents being in the room with them and really BEING with them. I tell my daughter often that she needs to put down the cell phone and really BE with her 9 year old – my granddaughter. She’s also a single parent with no involvement from the other half.

  • Dot says:

    Loved the story. I did the same to one of my children. Yes, it looked very much like yours but they had a little longer hair. Still ‘froed like yours did. Thanks for sharing.


    Wonderful reminder and powerful truth about spending time with our children, “I know we have hundreds more distractions and commitments today than my dad did in 1988, BUT THE OPPORTUNITY IS THE SAME.” We must choose moment by moment to be present when we are with them.

    I actually belly laughed at your curly-haired picture. In the mid-70’s one of my friends tried those pink sponge curlers to add extra body to her already wavy hair. After curling her wet hair and sleeping on them all night, she removed them right before school, completely flabbergasted by her huge head of hair that the whole student body was only minutes from seeing. I found her panicked in a school bathroom that morning feverishly brushing her hair, which only made it fuller. We wet her hair with water from the sink but nothing besides full immersion that evening was gonna take down those curls! What a difficult day for an eighth grader but such a funny memory now.