When you couple military life and its demands, obligations and responsibilities to the raising of a family, it can, and often does poise unique “challenges;” especially when your family is comprised of six children (4 girls and 2 boys). I also know from firsthand experience exactly what it feels like to miss birthdays, sporting events, parent-teacher conferences, picnics, first steps, doctor’s visits and those simple, yet memorable day-to-day activities that comes with parenting.
However, I have no regrets, animosity or bitterness in my heart for my choosing this profession. I firmly believe there can be no greater honor than to have served one’s country. Not every American can conclusively say that their sacrifices made it possible for someone to sleep a little better that night.
During the days, weeks and months that I was often away from my family, I tried to stay in touch with letters, recording my thoughts and love for them on audio cassette tapes, and also with phone calls whenever my ship made a port call. Although at times the latter method could prove to be a rather expensive venture, in the long run it proved to be a worthwhile investment … we considered it an investment in the thoughts, dreams and preparedness of our children’s future.
The times I was home, I tried to spend each precious second busily occupying my role as a dad, a husband and a father. As the years passed, and technology evolved, the advent of Skype, Facebook and other social media sites, made staying in touch a bit simpler, but nothing can truly replace the true sensation of “being home;” however, this did ease the longing we felt in our hears for one another a bit.
Often I had found myself wondering if the things that I had done, the decisions that I had made or the plans that I had adhered to were making a difference or even an imprint in our kids’ lives. So one day out of curiosity, I began mentally retracing the steps that I had taken as a parent over the past twenty years.
What I saw was nothing short of amazing! The small treasures that each of the kid’s had given me to show their love and appreciation for me, along with the tangible gifts of ties, caps, shirts, socks, toothbrushes, hand written cards and letters and even videos were all memories given from their heart.
I’ll never forget the day my daughters said to me, “Dad, when we marry, we want our husbands to be just like you. The way you love us and mama is what it really means to be a family.”
Boy, not only did their words hit home, but in a climatic way! Admittedly, I got even more chocked up the moment I realized that their words had answered the question that puzzled me most, “Was my labor in vain?” My sons, as most young men, kept their words, short and to the point, “Dad, you did your best to be there for us, and that’s all any child could ever ask or hope for. Really, it was your actions more than your words that told us you not only loved us, but that you were doing your best to be there with and for us.”
So to all you dads out there who may be wondering if your kids really see, respect and cherish your efforts to love them, take my word for it, they do. My advice is simple, “If your efforts are true, genuine and from the heart, then sooner rather than later you too will realize the fruits of your labors.