A Little Inspiration for Parents, Dads, and Everyone Who Needs a Bit of Kindness

It’s just an ordinary Thursday afternoon.

But, somehow, the veil hanging over the face of the world gets ripped right off.

I’ve taken my kids to a secluded park along the edge of a languid river, because they love the single slide and the lone merry-go-round that reside there. Maybe the autumn light is slanting just right or maybe the painted leaves are just the right amount of incandescent. Whatever it is, as my kids run and laugh and climb and laugh and slide and laugh and spin themselves into an orbit of energy and joy and abandon, the edges of the world get sharper and the light gets brighter. In the still, crisp air, a single leaf float-rocks its way to the ground in front of me and everything snaps into focus:

We’re all leaves, on our way from budding to dying.

My kids are six, eight, and twelve and they are, each of them, like leaves in the springtime, erupting into life, caged energy unfurled, color exploding, anticipation bursting, and joy expanding. They have an entire cycle of life ahead of them. They are promise and possibility and every unlived moment just waiting to happen.

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These days, I feel a little more like a leaf at the end of a long summer.

The days are still long and there’s still plenty of sunlight, but the hot, dog days of the season have sapped some of my initial energy and strength. I’m a little more dry. A little more brittle. These are good days. My edges haven’t yet begun to shrivel and my colors have only just begun to change, but that changing season is not as far off as it used to be.

My wife’s grandparents visited recently. They are almost ninety, and they traveled halfway across the country to see us. They are raging against the dying of the light, like autumn leaves that refuse to give up their color, refuse to release their hold upon the branch which has born them, refuse to give in to the winter that’s coming.

Perhaps it’s because my children are frolicking on the same playground upon which I played as a kid. Perhaps it’s seeing the me-I-once-was in them and wondering if, someday, they might stand in this very spot while watching their own kids come to life. Whatever it is, time and space fold in upon themselves and every season of my life is present at once. All of it. From the budding to the dying. And I decide to enjoy the end of my summer by being a witness to their springtime. While I can.

In a quiet park in the middle of nowhere, a late-summer leaf watches three springtime buds.

And it is, for a moment, almost more peace than I can handle.

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My words are few this week because, in four days, I’ll be turning in the first draft of my manuscript to my publisher, and most of my words are going into it. (Tune in next week for more about that!) In the meantime, in lieu of words, I want to share with you two more bits of inspiration.

The surreal journey that began with my daughter and I on the TODAY Show has led to us being featured in a trailer for a documentary about the important role dads have to play in the lives of their daughters. It’s called A Voice That Carries. You can click on the link below to watch the video and, while you’re there, you might consider supporting this worthy cause. The people behind it are the real deal—some of the most good-hearted people you’ll ever meet. I pray their vision can become a reality.

To be inspired by dads and daughters, click here.

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Around our house, one song in particular is getting a lot of airplay right now. It’s a song written by a dad for his daughter but, really, it’s a song written for all of us who are needing a little bit of kindness. You can watch the video for “Be Kind to Yourself” by Andrew Peterson, by clicking the link below. His is a voice that carries.

To be inspired to show yourself a little kindness, click here.

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You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Next Post: Why I’m Writing My First Book

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Disclaimer: My writings represent a combination of my own personal opinions and my professional experiences, but they do not reflect professional advice. Interaction with me via the blog does not constitute a professional therapeutic relationship. For professional and customized advice, you should seek the services of a counselor who can dedicate the hours necessary to become more intimately familiar with your specific situation. I do not assume liability for any portion or content of material on the blog and accept no liability for damage or injury resulting from your decision to interact with the website.

Kelly is a licensed clinical psychologist and co-founder of Artisan Clinical Associates in Naperville, IL. He is also a writer and blogs regularly about the redemption of our personal, relational, and communal lives. Kelly is married, has three children, and enjoys learning from them how to be a kid again. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Patricia

    As a former teacher I wish your trailer and the song would be shown to all dads! They need to know what an influence they can have with their daughters. Thank you Kelly for being that voice for your precious girl; she will be a better and more content girl/woman because of it. Your message this morning was so beautiful it brought tears to my eyes. Can’t wait to hear about your book next week.

    • drkellyflanagan

      Thanks for all your kind words, Patricia. One of the truly encouraging things about the whole adventure to my daughter has been hearing from and running into dads who have truly embraced the importance of their role as not just a provider, but also a nurturer. It is reason for much hope!

  • Grace

    So much wonderful here this morning! Thank you Kelly 🙂
    My 89 year-old dad is 40 years older than me and lives 4 doors down. Last week we both celebrated our autumn birthdays. My 7 year old’s birthday card to me read not only of her loving mommy, but of my husband’s love for me as well. It reminded me that in these 49 years, I’ve seen my parents love each other through every season. Now at the end of our children’s happy, running feet leaping through the door of grandma and grandpa’s house, they see that love there too! Love seeds produce fruit and heal through generations. Exciting to see and read more of this from you!

    • drkellyflanagan

      This is beautiful, Grace. It had never occurred to me that the work and commitment to our marriages now may bear fruit directly for a generation that hasn’t even been born yet. That feels timeless and transcendent. Thank you for lifting up the veil a little further!

      • Grace

        “Lifting the veil a little further” lovely…and adoption also adds a sweet element to the fruit and healing of future family lines through love.

  • Ardys Zoellner

    Wow. And wow. The video of you and your daughter brought tears to my eyes. And the YouTube video was so lovely as well. Looking forward to reading about your book adventure.

  • Candice Marquette

    Your story brought back my favorite memory. We had driven our RV all the way from Chicago to Maine. Parked at an ocean side KOA campground, my husband and the kids were inside taking a nap (finally ) and I’m lounging outside in a portable hammock reading. I drifted off like a cat in the sun and when I woke up and saw the majestic ocean and felt the warmth on my skin I was consumed with a sense of tranquility and gratitude for my state of being like I’ve never felt before or since. All was right in the world at that moment. I hope I get to experience that serenity many more times. Good luck with the book, you know I’ll be buying it!!!!!!