When I was a youngster, it seemed to me my dad was hard on me. Whenever I expressed one viewpoint, he argued the opposite. It seemed our communication was always point and counterpoint. It was painful to be constantly challenged by a man whose approval meant so much to me. I found my child’s mind questioning my logic and his love.
~ Why did he always disagree with me?
~ Was there something wrong with my thought process?
I even went so far as to wonder if I was a disappointment to him.
Yet, even when his facts exposed huge holes in my arguments, I could feel my backbone stiffen as I spoke up for what I believed in — very difficult to do when my throat was choked with tears and my breath felt strangled.
One day I decided to lighten things up. My strategy was to get Dad to express his point of view first. Then I would agree with whatever he said; no point and counterpoint, no arguments, no silent tears.
One fall evening the Beatles were performing on the Ed Sullivan television show for the first time. Our family watched, all eyes and ears riveted on the 7-inch black and white Admiral TV. After the din of the screaming teenagers and the audience applause quieted, I asked Dad what he thought of the singing group. He expressed strong sentiments — forecasting that the Beatles' long hair and raucous music would corrupt my generation of kids.
I completely disagreed, but I had a plan and I stuck to it. I swallowed hard, and said, "Dad, maybe you’re right."
There was a long, uncomfortable silence. Then with great agitation, Dad demanded, "What's wrong with you? I didn't bring you up to agree with every idea you hear! I raised you to think for yourself. What do you mean, ‘Maybe I’m right?'”
Ohhhhhhhh! I got it.
All the time I thought Dad was judging me, he was developing my communication muscles. My father was giving me, his treasured daughter, permission to have my own perspective, and he was giving me the space to argue its merits. He was not doing it to me; he was doing it for me.
I know I've said this before, “Gifts do not always come in packages you expect.”