With a 7-months-pregnant belly tucked underneath my favorite blue maternity dress, I sat in front of a full room of friends and family.
As I looked around the sea of people, pink tissue paper, and diaper boxes, I was equally as grateful for everyone’s thoughtfulness as I was overwhelmed by how much ONE BABY was going to need.
I noticed there was a small gift from my dad that I hadn’t yet opened. I glanced over at him in a “What is this?” kind of way, and he nodded toward it with a smile that told me to just open it.
When the paper was pulled back and the framed note showed itself, I put my hand over my mouth, threw my head back in the air, and couldn’t help but laugh before suddenly feeling the tears of gratitude fill my eyes.
I couldn’t believe he ACTUALLY saved it.
About 13 years prior, he and I sat across the kitchen table from each other as I threw a teenage temper tantrum.
My dad was the rule enforcer in our house, and he had a lot of rules. Looking back, I know they were a part of protecting me while still giving me room to learn and grow, but at the time, they made my eyes roll.
On this particular night, I was arguing with him about my embarrassing, earliest-of-all-of-my-friends’ curfew, a rule he NEVER budged on.
“I’m so tired of your rules!” I yelled at him. “When I’m a parent, I’m never going to have as many of them as you do!”
I immediately prepared to be grounded. My tone was certainly grounds for it.
But he didn’t say a word. Instead, he reached over for a pen and paper and began to write without letting me see what he was scribing. I sat with my arms crossed and leg impatiently tapping until he finally slid the paper over in front of me.
In his infamous “all caps” writing, it read:
“I WILL NEVER HAVE AS MANY RULES FOR MY KIDS AS MY DAD DID FOR ME.”
Underneath it was a place for both of us to sign and date it.
In my best annoyed-teenager voice I said, “What is this?”
“Well,” he said, “if you really mean that you won’t have as many rules as me . . . then sign it.”
And I did without hesitation.
I have no idea what happened after that moment, but as I sat center stage at my baby shower, about to become that parent who would never have as many rules as my dad, he presented me with our “contract” he had stored in a safe deposit box for over a decade.
I think he knew at that kitchen table he had a choice.
He could try to break through my teenage attitude and explain to me why he had so many rules, but knowing I probably wouldn’t get it in that moment, he brilliantly chose patience and hung on to that life lesson to hand over to me later in life when it would matter more.
Because as an adult, I can look back and see that his rules were an act of love–and he was willing to take my frustrated tantrums in exchange for keeping me safe and teaching me boundaries.
Today, as a mom three-times-over, that’s the same thing I want for my kids. And, well, we have a few rules in our house because of it.
My dad knew all along I would break that contract, and with every new rule I set, I think about him—and I simply pray I have the patience and vision he did that day at the kitchen table as I navigate the tough days of enforcing them.
And that my kids will one day love me for my acts of love–the way I love my dad for his.
Like this post? Here’s another lesson from my parents: