“I may not love you perfectly but you are perfectly loved.”
When I was a teenager, I remember being annoyed with my dad. I thought he should acknowledge my accomplishments more than he did. He wasn’t one for giving compliments and I found myself pouting over that issue more than once. I wanted him to give me verbal praise for things. I wanted him to tell me he was happy with my performance on the track, or on the balance beam or that he loved the character development I achieved in the school play, but that just wasn’t his way and it made me mad.
It made me mad until I had a realization one day. I figured out that it wasn’t my dad who had the problem, it was me! My father showed me each and every day that he loved me and he let me know that in ways small and large. He often made little folded airplanes for me out of matchbook covers because they amused me. When he had a bag of pecans, he’d patiently crack open and clean one nut for me each time he cracked one for himself and he ate my Lima beans without telling my mom because he knew I hated them. He worked tirelessly and without complaint so that my sister and I had the material things we needed (and some we didn’t but just wanted). A huge chunk of his paycheck went to the Hamlin School for Girls…an academically challenging, private school in San Francisco. He let us buy books and magazines whenever we wanted. He never said “No” to reading material, be it comic books or my very own encyclopedia set (which I enjoyed immensely especially on rainy weekends). I had tap dancing lessons, ballet lessons, horseback riding lessons, tennis lessons and swimming lessons. My dad took the family everywhere he traveled because he wanted us to experience other places, people and cultures. In other words, he was a great dad but I chose to focus on the one thing he didn’t do…give verbal compliments.
Once I gained the insight to look at the whole picture and to take what he gave me with gratitude, I was a much happier girl. It changed our relationship for the better since I was no longer childishly demanding he do something entirely foreign to his nature. I opened my own heart and suddenly, I could see what I should have all along…that I was always loved and always appreciated whether he gave words to it or not.
It’s a lesson I’ve carried through all the rest of my life. People love you in the way that’s most natural to them. It’s a waste of time to fret over the things they don’t do (like bring you flowers) if can see that they show you appreciation in other ways (like happily fixing your car when it’s broken). Sometimes you can make your own happiness by simply adjusting your own perspective.
*One year, my dad started going to McDonald’s constantly. He hated the food there but ordered his Happy Meal and dutifully ate the thing several times a week. One day my older son who was about 3 at the time said “Grandpa sure does love McDonalds.” I smiled and said “No, he sure does love YOU.” He was going to McDonald’s and ordering Happy Meals in order to collect the toys included in meal. He was on a quest to get each and every Teeny Beanie Baby in the collection since he found out his precious grandson liked them. Now that’s love!