They Can’t Understand

Look, there’s just no way your kids can understand. It’s impossible for a person that young, that free of responsibilities, to comprehend what it feels like to be a parent—to have your heart running around outside your body. How could they possibly conceive what it’s like to worry all the time that something bad might happen? How could they know what it’s like to feel impotent in the face of all that’s wrong in the world? How could they know all the things we have to manage to keep them safe, happy, and moving forward?

They can’t. 

Which means it’s more than a little baffling when you’re short with them. When you won’t let them run ahead and get to the playground. When you grab them hard in the parking lot because they got excited and stopped listening. When you’re hard on them about their grades. When you’re a wreck at the airport. 

These emotions don’t register to them as coming from a place of concern. They don’t register as coming from anywhere—to a kid, to a teenager, intentions are irrelevant. All they can feel is the outcome, all they can feel is the energy. And they don’t like it! It sucks. It scares them. It hurts them. 

You have to understand that they don’t understand, that they can never understand, just as you didn’t until they were born. So you have to calm down. You have to get a handle on yourself and your nerves. You have to communicate with them. You have to explain, over and over again, how much you love them, how much you are trying to protect them. You have to explain the reasons for your concern.

But most of all, you have to come to terms with the fact that the concern you have for your kids is your burden and can—no, must—be born by you alone. 

P.S. This was originally sent on May 26, 2021. Sign up today for the Daily Dad’s email and get our popular 11 page eBook, “20 Things Great Dads Do Everyday.”

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