Traditionally, Mother’s Day is the busiest day of the year for phone calls.
So where does that leave dads on Father’s Day?
Well, maybe fewer calls are made because talking with the old man is more frustrating than talking with mom. Too often conversations between fathers and their adult children (especially sons) come complete with long pauses and unspoken regrets. After an abrupt hang up, both parties end up shaking their head and wondering why they bothered to make the call or why they even answered.
Well the truth is that both parties do care. And both generations would love to communicate more effectively and even express an authentic sense of love and appreciation.
Would a script help? As a long-time scriptwriter, I’m going to take a crack at it. If this works, let me know. I would love to hear that my experience writing thousands of radio scripts, church skits, and television commercials for beer, airlines, and supermarkets finally will have practical, real-life application.
Consider the partial dialogue below as just a starting point for your Father’s Day call. If you use any or all of this script, don’t feel like you need to admit to your father that your words came from an outside resource.
Also, this script assumes you’re making a phone call. But use or adapt these ideas if you Facetime or see your dad in person on Father’s Day (or any other day).
Just try saying something like this:
“Hi, Dad. It’s … (Insert name.) Happy Father’s Day!”
“For the last few days I was thinking about you and just wanted to call. How are you doing?”
Then listen. If he has good news, respond with words like, “That’s great.” And if he delivers some sad news, share his sorrow or concerns and ask a few follow-up questions that confirm you care.
“I’ve been crazy busy with …”
Give a brief description of one of your current projects. Make it mostly good news with a positive spin because parents hope the best for their kids and want to have happy news to brag about with their friends.
“I wanted to tell you some news and get some advice …”
Deliver a legitimate piece of news about something meaningful going on in your life. Then ask for their opinion. It could be about a career move, relationship, household project, vacation destination, medical issue, or legal question. The goal is not to worry your parents. It’s to make them feel valued … and you might get some solid advice.
“And hey, I talked to …” (sibling, uncle or aunt, old family friend) “… and it sounds like they’re doing well. They said to say hi to you.”
Parents like to think their kids keep in touch with family and friends. It’s part of the legacy they are leaving.
“Well, that’s all for now. Looking at the calendar …”
Don’t cut the call short if you’re still interacting and sharing, but eventually you’ll sense it’s time. If you can end with a promise or intention to see him in the near future, do that. If there are no plans, you can speculate on some future holiday or travel plans. But don’t make a promise you have no intention of keeping.
“It’s always good talking. Maybe I don’t say it enough, but I love you and appreciate all you’ve done. I still need you. Thanks for being there. Take care.”
Make sense? Is this something you can do? Or should do? This is not about guilt or repentance.
This is about your heritage and your dad’s legacy.
Speaking as a father of adult children, I’m sure your parents are rooting for you to do great things. We don’t expect you to put your life on hold for us. We don’t need to hear every detail of your day. But as I tell my kids, “Throw us a bone every once in a while.”
If you live three states away, that’s even more important. If we know you’re going through a life crisis, let us know what we can do. You’re still our kids. If some bad blood or harsh comments from the past are still hanging in the air, I encourage you to do or say what you can to put those feelings behind you. Don’t necessarily expect a torrent of emotional apologizing and weeping and hugs. (There could be, but there doesn’t have to be.) Families can sometimes leave things unsaid and move forward without dredging up and belaboring regrets from the past. After all, as the Bible says: “Love covers over a multitude of sins.”.
Speaking as a son who lost my both parents in the past few years, I will always be grateful for the intentional time I put in to connect with my folks. Some of it was obligatory because of circumstances, but even that turned out to be a blessing.
Which brings us to the fifth of the Ten Commandments: “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” Or as I like to misinterpret the passage, “Be nice to your folks and get real estate.”
And, oh yeah, don’t wait until next Father’s Day to reach out again.
Jay Payleitner is a popular speaker for men’s weekend retreats and the bestselling author of 52 Things Kids Need from a Dad, 52 Things Sons Need from their Dad, a new release Jay co-authored with his daughter, Girl Dad, and dozens of other books. Jay and his high school sweetheart, Rita, live in St. Charles, Illinois where they raised five awesome kids, loved on ten foster babies, and are cherishing grandparenthood. Track him down at jaypayleitner.com.