In a media age that bombards youth with images of what they should look like and gives false importance to outer beauty, it can be challenging to instill in young minds a true sense of inner strength and beauty. How can fathers and mothers compete with the seemingly endless flow of lies that lead to unwarranted self-doubt and anxiety in young people? Though there are many suggested solutions in parenting books, the most influential approach is one that any father and mother can provide without training. We learn from Jenet Erickson’s own reflections the lasting, positive effects of a father whose consistent, deliberate presence formed the necessary attachments that kept his daughters from relying on the media for answers. Instead, they found character and confidence through his constant care. In Jenet’s own words:
In the hours before he went to work and in the hours after he returned, Dad spent his time teaching us and showing us how to do difficult things and better ourselves in the process. From doing math and chemistry problems to hoeing rows of tomatoes and milking cows, from learning to swim to kneading and baking bread, he instilled in his children confidence and capacity. In a way that only he could manage, he challenged us to do more while strengthening us through his knowledge we could do it. Most important, he was seemingly always beside us, willing to reach in and lift the load when it got too heavy, always encouraging us with his confidence. In his closeness and care, we felt strength. In his teaching and challenging, we developed confidence that we could do whatever was put before us.
It wasn’t until I was older that I realized Dad had never talked much about our appearance. I very rarely heard him comment on anyone’s appearance—especially women’s. In his quiet teaching, I knew that what Dad cared about most was that our bodies were healthy and well cared for so they could help us fulfill our dreams and do good for others. In a world that objectifies the body for sexual pleasure and financial gain, Dad seemed to intuitively fill us with confidence that our bodies were about our minds, hearts, and capacities. In Dad’s world, there was simply not time or energy to worry about making our bodies fit a worldly model of beauty. We had too much to do and too much to give. Our deep attachments to him and Mother, as well as understanding ourselves and our self-worth, provided footing to focus on what we could give and do to bless others.
As I look back, I marvel at his wisdom…
Today’s post and image are contributed by Seeing the Everyday magazine. Read more about Jenet Erickson’s experience in her article, “Kneading Confidence,” in Seeing the Everyday no. 24. For more information, go to seeingtheeveryday.com.