Just Say It!

Just Say It!

From Chicken Soup for the Soul 20th Anniversary Edition

Just Say It!

If you were going to die soon and had only one phone call you could make, who would you call and what would you say? And why are you waiting?

~Stephen Levine

One night, after reading one of the hundreds of parenting books I’ve read, I was feeling a little guilty because the book had described some parenting strategies I hadn’t used in a while. The main strategy was to talk with your child and use those three magic words: “I love you.” It had stressed over and over that children need to know unconditionally and unequivocally that you really love them.

I went upstairs to my son’s bedroom and knocked on the door. As I knocked, all I could hear were his drums. I knew he was there but he wasn’t answering. So I opened the door and, sure enough, there he was sitting with his earphones on, listening to a tape and playing his drums. After I leaned over to get his attention, I said to him, “Tim, have you got a second?”

He said, “Oh sure, Dad. I’m always good for one.” We proceeded to sit down and after about 15 minutes and a lot of small talk and stuttering, I just looked at him and said, “Tim, I really love the way you play drums.” He said, “Oh, thanks, Dad, I appreciate it.”

I walked out the door and said, “See you later!” As I was walking downstairs, it dawned on me that I went up there with a certain message and had not delivered it. I felt it was really important to get back up there and have another chance to say those three magic words.

Again I climbed the stairs, knocked on the door and opened it. “You got a second, Tim?”

“Sure, Dad. I’m always good for a second or two. What do you need?”

“Son, the first time I came up here to share a message with you, something else came out. It really wasn’t what I wanted to share with you. Tim, do you remember when you were learning how to drive, it caused me a lot of problems? I wrote three words and slipped them under your pillow in hopes that would take care of it. I’d done my part as a parent and expressed my love to my son.” Finally after a little small talk, I looked at Tim and said, “What I want you to know is that we love you.”

He looked at me and said, “Oh, thanks, Dad. That’s you and Mom?”

I said, “Yeah, that’s both of us, we just don’t express it enough.” He said, “Thanks, that means a lot. I know you do.”

I turned around and walked out the door. As I was walking downstairs, I started thinking, “I can’t believe this. I’ve already been up there twice — I know what the message is and yet something else comes out of my mouth.”

I decided I’m going back there now and let Tim know exactly how I feel. He’s going to hear it directly from me. I don’t care if he is six feet tall! So back I go, knock on the door and he yells “Wait a minute. Don’t tell me who it is. Could that be you, Dad?”

I said, “How’d you know that?” and he responded, “I’ve known you ever since you were a parent, Dad.”

Then I said “Son, have you got just one more second?”

“You know I’m good for one, so come on in. I suppose you didn’t tell me what you wanted to tell me?”

I said, “How’d you know that?”

“I’ve known you ever since I was in diapers.”

I said, “Well, here it is, Tim, what I’ve been holding back on. I just want to express to you how special you are to our family. It’s not what you do, and it’s not what you’ve done, like all the things you’re doing with the junior high kids in town. It’s who you are as a person. I love you and I just wanted you to know I love you, and I don’t know why I hold back on something so important.”

He looked at me and he said, “Hey, Dad, I know you do and it’s really special hearing you say it to me. Thanks so much for your thoughts, as well as the intent.” As I was walking out the door, he said, “Oh, hey, Dad. Have you got another second?”

I started thinking, “Oh no. What’s he going to say to me?” I said, “Oh sure. I’m always good for one.”

I don’t know where kids get this — I’m sure it couldn’t be from their parents, but he said, “Dad, I just want to ask you one question.”

I said, “What’s that?”

He looked at me and said, “Dad, have you been to a workshop or something like that?”

I’m thinking, “Oh no, like any other 18-year-old, he’s got my number,” and I said, “No, I was reading a book, and it said how important it is to tell your kids how you really feel about them.”

“Hey, thanks for taking the time. Talk to you later, Dad.”

I think what Tim taught me, more than anything else that night, is that the only way you can understand the real meaning and purpose of love is to be willing to pay the price. You have to go out there and risk sharing it.

~Gene Bedley

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