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Be the Example

It was the night I earned my Masters of Education degree from UVa that my father explained to me his thoughts on love. We had enjoyed a great day - the pageantry of graduation on the Lawn, friends and family around us, and a few glasses of wine.

While grilling dinner for everyone outside my apartment, Dad opened up.

We had a wide ranging conversation. To be honest, I don't remember a whole lot of it though the feeling of closeness still clings to me. The one line that does remain clear, though, is this one:

"Son, I figured the most important thing I could do for you and your brother was to love your mother and treat her well."

Now, you have to understand something - I feared my father growing up. Not in a bad way; he was never violent but rather very firm in his thoughts and sparse in his praise. As a teenage boy, he was unpredictable and soooo old school. "He just didn't understand" was a constant thought.

I honestly couldn't understand how my friends (especially the girls) thought he was so charming and friendly. This was the man who set the consequences and discipline around the house. The man who would punish. The man around whom my football teammates would remove earrings while saying, "Cole, your dad don't play!"

The man whose praise I sought more than any other.

Now, over hot coals and cooking steaks, my father was teaching me as man rather than a boy. He was making it very simple, very plain, and explaining a lifetime of memories.

"Son, I figured the most important thing I could do for you and your brother was to love your mother and treat her well."

He has always treated my mother with respect, with love, and with caring. (Sure, he had his moments but don't we all?) He danced with her at parties, laughed along with her stories, always told us 'Kiss your mother' before we headed to school. He was supportive when her parents went to God, happy to help when she started businesses, opened doors, smiled, gave her a kiss goodnight, cleaned the dishes and more.

My father has spent our entire life showing his sons how to love in many ways - big and small. For this, I am truly thankful.

Our God made it plain for us as well. When asked what was the greatest commandment, Jesus replied:

"‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” - Matthew 22:36-40

Fathers, love your children's mother and treat her well. Let them see it. Do not be showy or boastful. Rather, be honest, be consistent, and be thoughtful. Our children are watching around the table, in the car, on vacation, at the field, in church and when you least expect it.

Fathers, your boys are watching you and learning from you. You are going to show them what a man is each and every day. Show them how to love. And, if you don't know how, start reading.

Thanks, Dad. I love you. Happy Valentines Day.

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