I Love You, Dad (Healing the Single Father)

12/04/2013 12:10 pm ET | Updated Feb 03, 2014

"I love you, Dad."


Do you remember saying that to your father? I do.

And tonight (by some trick of luck I have my kids a day early) my son said, as I turned out the light, "I love you, Dad." I felt it. And for just a minute, I could imagine what I felt like when I was a kid and saying it to my dad.

There's a big difference between my experience of my dad's love and my son's. My hope is that by being fully present and loving that he will grow to know he is loved deeply. I never quite got that from my dad. I never quite felt like he got me. And after my parent's divorce when I was about 5, I never really had much time with my dad. Things were pretty serious from then on.

As much as things have changed in their lives, my steadfast positivism has never changed.
I make sure, on a regular basis, that my son and daughter KNOW that I get them. I dig into their games and play with them. I listen to their stories as if I was trying to discover something about them and they way they are making their strides though their young lives.

And I try and expose as much of my real life as possible as well. Last weekend, I performed with my band at a local club, and I made arrangements for them to come, even though it wasn't my weekend. I want them to see me doing my passion AND working for a living. I want them to see me in the process of healing from this change in all our lives. I can demonstrate how I can remain loving towards their mother, even when things are different.

I let them know that I want her to be happy too. As happy as I am.

And they can see my happiness daily. Occasionally they even make remarks to let me know they see my joy. Of course, I am not shy about telling them. I am always celebrating little wins like tonight, where I greet the babysitter's car by saying, "I get an extra night!"

As much as things have changed in their lives, my steadfast positivism has never changed. And sure, they have seen me in sad and quiet places before, they saw it even while I was still married to their mom, it's part of MY path in life. But they can see my joy every time I engage with them. They may get tired of hearing me tell them how much I love them, or how happy I am that they are here with me, but I don't think I can ever say it enough.

But tonight, something special happened, it came sailing back to me, out of the darkened room, unprompted. And it struck me like an arrow, a joyful arrow.

And in that split-second I was both a father and a son. And in that moment, I also felt the joy of my father's love upon me. He might have left the planet 15 years ago, but his love is still within me. And each time I can really hear and connect with my own kids, my heart lights up with a little bit more healing of my 5-year-old self, my wounded little boy.

My son gave me a gift tonight in just offering up his affection. And in that moment I heard my dad saying the words to me, "I love you, Dad."

Always Love,

John McElhenney


See The Whole Parent blog for more of this story. And I welcome your comments and suggestions here. And your participation via Facebook and Twitter.

Note: The image is of me and my oh-so-serious dad.