As we’ve written about before, Ted Williams was not a good father. He was a great baseball player who totally neglected the responsibilities of being a dad…until eventually his hardened exterior cracked. With time, and mostly due to the persistent efforts of his children, he began to connect and share with them. He began to be the father they had wanted and needed for so long.
There is one scene in Wright Thompson’s profile of Williams’ daughter that shows Ted learning one of the most basic lessons of being a great father—one that we could all use a reminder of today (and, by the way, one that will make you a better husband and boss and person too). It happened when Claudia was going through a painful breakup. For some reason, she decided she would actually open up to her father about it, that she’d actually invite this man who had rejected her so many times when she was younger into her private pain. Almost immediately it became tense, a kind of argument about what to do.
“Please don’t be mad,” she pleaded with him. “Just listen to me. I am hurting.”
Williams grinded his teeth and struggled with his impotence towards another person’s problem. “What the hell do you want me to do about it!” he shouted. “I can’t do a fucking thing.”
Then Claudia said the words that every father needs to remember: “Just tell me you love me.”
Then Williams said the words that every father needs to say: “JESUS CHRIST. I love you more than you’ll ever know.
But most importantly: He did what you need to do more of, when your spouse has a problem, when your kids have a problem, when they come to you with news or with worries or with mistakes. He listened. Just listen. That’s all you have to do. You don’t have to solve it. You don’t have to tell them what they did wrong. You don’t have to make it go away.
You just have to hear them. You just have to let them know that you love them.