Before you read this blog, it is important to note that I love my father to the end of the earth. Growing up, he was my best friend, my biggest fan, my rock, and everything in between. When the going got tough, he was my knight in shining armor. I attribute my successes in life thus far to him. If you ever read this dad, thank you, from the bottom of my heart for all you have done for me over the years. I feel like I am starting to understand “why” now….
“Because I said so.” I never did too well with that line. Yet, it is one I am all too familiar with. From the time I was little, putting up a fight to not eat my veggies, to the more recent years when my dad refused to let me move back home after college, I never really got it. Why?
My father is the product of a military upbringing. His dad was a career military guy and my dad devoted several of his younger years to the military. While that atmosphere does not exactly focus on sensitivity training, it does place a heavy emphasis on several values that include responsibility, diligence, accountability, discipline, and integrity. I had literally no concept of what those meant until college. I was not a spoiled child but I never really had to “do without.” I had food, shelter, clothes, and most of all, so much love. When my dad said no “just because” or disciplined me, I just assumed he was being a jerk because that’s what parents did. I never thought about how he felt when he had to say no and discipline me. That’s “just what parents do,” right?
Fast forward. I started my college career at JMU. That was a milestone moment for me. The year I got accepted there were something like 40,000 applicants with 9% admitted and I was not exactly a straight A high school student. My dad was the first to congratulate me. This was a big moment for him too. He never went to college and he put so much effort into giving me opportunities he never had. He was so proud of me and happy for us that he cried.
Six months down the road, I decided to transfer to VCU against his wishes. He was livid. Not because of the university but because I gave up on the first school without giving it to be what he deemed an honest effort. I had made up my mind before my first semester even started and he knew that. He was so mad that when I told him I needed somewhere to live in Richmond, he did not bail me out and let me come home. He deactivated my cell phone, which he paid for at that time. I also had to get a credit card to pay all my parking violations from JMU (freshman were not supposed to bring cars to campus but I did) because he refused to help me.
I really pushed the boundaries of his values. He told me, “Meg, if you’re going to make your own bed, you’re going to lay in it.” I had a decision. I could either give up and do nothing or make it work and get to work. Things like that seem to always happen to me. For whatever reason, I choose to learn the hard way. My dad knew that. I poked the bear. He became a bear. I chose to make it work.
I found a roommate. I got a phone. And I got my first credit card. My dad was not a jerk. The truth is, he saw me going down a path that was not good for me. I was lazy. I had a bad attitude. I felt entitled to do whatever I wanted without considering repercussions. The transfer was just the straw that broke the camel’s back. Even with the extensive military background, it was hard for my dad to do the tough love thing to me, his only baby, even though he wanted to teach me those values. He tells me it was something he had to do to because he knew it was the only way I would learn. It upset him but he loved me enough to do something he didn’t want to do because he knew the value it would hold for me in the long run.
Contrary to my thoughts in younger years, my dad never woke up and thought to himself, “Wow! I can’t wait to discipline my child today in an effort to teach her a valuable life lesson!” Yeah, that never happened. That’s not “just what parents do.”
The purpose of that story is not to highlight parenting techniques. Rather, the goal is to shed light on the fact that we don’t always have to like something in order to see the value of it. For my dad, that “something” he didn’t necessarily like but still valued was tough love. For other folks maybe that “something” is getting fierce feedback from someone you care about. Sure it’s hard to hear – but do you value the honesty and effort it takes to give that feedback?
Whatever the case may be…the point is, you do not always have to like something to see the value in it.