“You’re leaving me?”
“Just for a little while, buddy. We’ll hang out more at the house later today, I promise.”
My son said that to me earlier this week while we were all on vacation. For whatever reason, it’s stuck with me.
He saw my leaving the park for a little while with a buddy as “leaving him.”
It shouldn’t be a big deal, right? But his words, the tone of his voice, keep echoing with me.
What choices am I making today that are impacting the way he feels?
How about the way he feels about our relationship?
Is there anything else that’s more important?
Now, I am a big believer in not being my kids’ sole playmate. I don’t believe in coddling them. But for some reason, this really hit me.
I think I may know why…
My son is seven years old. By the time I was his age, my parents had been divorced for four years.
My father had joint custody on the weekends, but he also had a girlfriend that lived far away. So, on most weekends, he chose to take my sister and me to stay with her, where we slept on the floor of her living room.
All four of her children slept soundly in their own rooms, with my sister and I sprawled out on the hard floor.
What made him think that was ok?
Or am I giving him too much credit, and he didn’t even think about it at all?
Maybe it still stings because it was such a clear metaphor for my childhood and relationship with him?
I wonder how that’s shaped my sister and me, now both in our 40s?
Thankfully, my kids’ upbringing has been very different. I do my best to make them feel loved, supported, and always let them know they’re my main priority.
But still, I’m not perfect.
And I do realize that the decisions we make today, no matter how big or small, impact those around us: our kids, spouses, family, friends, coworkers, and even clients.
But, as they say, the person who asks the difficult question is already on the right path since they truly care about the answer.
I’m comforted by the notion that I do ask these questions all the time; that I truly want to be a better father, husband, friend, and advocate for my clients.
The past is the past, but I can only reaffirm my commitment to do better – to be better, because the one thing I never want to hear in my son’s voice again is doubt.
Here we are, coming into the final stretch of 2022, a good opportunity for reflection.
What changes can I make so that the ones I love never feel that way again?
So they never have to say – or even think – “You’re leaving me?”
The answer is simple, and the decision to always be there for them is, too.