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January is notorious for increased gym memberships, fasts, diet plans, and energized people ready to tackle the year to come. We tend to make resolutions that are tangible – like losing weight, exercising, or traveling. And then there are what I call, “presumed resolutions.” These are resolutions we should make to achieve an intended result, but we leave those results to chance. For example, I would guess we all want to have meaningful and close relationships with our children, but we assume that happens automatically if we are “good” parents, grandparents, aunts or uncles. Yet, good people don’t always have great relationships with their kids, do they?
I want to share with you a resolution you can implement today that can help you have a meaningful relationship with your child in the years to come. It’s based on a true story.
On December 13, 1979 – five days after I was born – my father sent me a postcard. Yes, only five days after my birth my father had to travel for work. The truth is that I didn’t need my father during my first week of life, nor would I miss him if he were gone. The only thing a baby needs is to be fed, changed, wrapped in a blanket, and loved. My mother was doing a perfectly fine job of caring and loving me, so I didn’t need anyone else.
I did not read that postcard or even know that he sent it until I was 36 years old.
Over the years my father sent me hundreds and hundreds of postcards. Many were thrown away or lost in the mail, but when I was old enough to read them, I would wait for the cards to come in the mail and I collected them in a cardboard box. I loved receiving those cards and even though I didn’t realize it then, it was through those postcards that my father consistently communicated his love for me.
One day my mother came over to my home holding several large, old photo albums. She’d been doing some spring cleaning.
“It’s time for you keep these in your home; I’ve held on to them long enough!” she said handing me the albums. I flipped through the pages, seeing pictures of myself as a baby and little mementos my mom had kept –the hospital card, the hospital bracelet, a little card that came with a bouquet of flowers. And then I saw it, Dad’s First Postcard, preserved for 36 years in a self-adhesive photo page.
My dad knew he’d always be traveling because of his career. He wasn’t going to be physically with me every day, but he wanted to be close to me regardless. He made a promise to send me a postcard from everywhere he went so I would always know he was thinking of me.
My father couldn’t control whether my mom would save the card for me or read it to me when I was older. (Luckily for him– and for me – she did save the card for me.) He couldn’t control whether the card would be lost in the mail or if I would ever know that he sent it. The only thing my father could control was sending the postcard.
That’s the thing about relationships. You cannot predict how the other party will respond. You can’t ensure that the other person will appreciate your efforts or sacrifices. The only thing you can control is your own actions.
So what can you do to create a special relationship with your child this year? Start today. Make a promise to your child you know you can keep. That promise will depend on your personal circumstances. Are you divorced and only see your child every other weekend? Do you live far from away? Do you live with your child but work long hours? Do you travel often? Is the child a niece or nephew or grandchild?
Call every day. Facetime. Skype. Send a postcard. Send an email. Do whatever works for you … but do it consistently. Don’t worry whether or not your baby is old enough to know the difference. This is as much a promise to yourself.
It doesn’t matter what route you choose or what promise you make as long as the message to the child is clear: I love you.
Don’t leave your relationships with your children to chance. Not this year. Take control of that which is in your control, regardless of the circumstances. Do that and you’ve already won half the battle.
In the years to come, your children will grow to cherish the promises you make and keep, and they’ll know you will always be with them—even when you’re not