On more than one occasion I’ve wondered whether anything I did as a father made any real difference.
Mostly that happened around the time my kids transformed into that unpleasant creature called “teenager”. When they were self-absorbed, made decisions I didn’t like, seemed unappreciative and ungrateful, I sometimes thought “why do I bother?” Why continue doing for them when a. it doesn’t seem to make a difference, and b. you often just get grief in return.
Then I would remind myself: you don’t do this because you expect something in return.
I would tell myself that regardless of how it might seem, all the stuff you do — the advice, guidance, concern, support, limits & consequences, love and affection — all has an impact. You might not see it at the moment, but you have to trust that it will have an impact over time, like the Mark Twain quote:
“When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”
Yesterday — the day before Father’s Day — I got a card in the mail from my daughter who is away at school taking summer classes. I wasn’t expecting it. She wrote that she recognizes and appreciates that I’ve supported her in “every single thing that (she’s) done in her life”.
That is of course the best Father’s Day gift that I could hope for.
So, parents of (current and future) teenagers, there is hope. Keep doing what you’re doing.