25 years ago, Gary held our first newborn, Travis. He swaddled him in the baby soft blanket, tenderly kissed him on the forehead, and whispered, “I love you,” as he laid him down in the cradle to sleep.
That may not seem like anything extraordinary for a father to do with his first newborn. But it was for Gary.
Saying I love you was something that Gary’s father didn’t do. Gary was a young adult before he heard those words from his father. Even then they felt forced and a bit unnatural. It’s no wonder that one of Gary’s fears about parenthood was that he’d be like his own father.
Gary wanted to parent differently. But he was aware of the natural tendency to repeat family patterns we grow up with. So since the day Travis arrived, Gary was intentional about being a different kind of father.
I laid on the couch across the room in our small apartment and watched Gary with Travis. I admired his tender love for our new baby, and I was confident he’d be a great father. I looked forward to sharing parenthood with him in the years to come.
Gary felt me watching him from across the room, and I guess he felt like he needed to explain.
“I figure that if I start saying ‘I love you,’ now, then it will always be natural for me to say those words to our kids. No matter how old they are, I want them to always hear me say, ‘I love you.’”
He didn’t have to explain anything. I could see his love flow naturally from his heart to our newborn. I knew then that our kids would grow up not only hearing him say those words, but they would feel him show his love in every possible way. I knew that Gary would be a different kind of Father because he let his Heavenly Father mold him.
Now it’s 25 years later.
Lots of changes have occurred in the Greenhouse–we added Jacob, Jessica and Lucas, we’ve moved a few times, and our kids aren’t kids anymore.
But some things haven’t changed.
Gary still tells the kids, “I love you.” It’s as natural as it was in the beginning when he held Travis as a newborn. In fact, they were in high school when they told him that he didn’t need to tuck them in at night with a hug and an “I love you.” Now he speaks those words in other occasions.
And I still watch him with admiration. He’s a great father. And I’ve noticed he looks more and more like his Heavenly Father. So of course I look forward to sharing parenthood with him in the years to come.
Happy Father’s Day, Gary!
Happy Father’s Day to all Dads!
May the Heavenly Father guide you as you love your kids intentionally.