This post may contain affiliate links. See my full disclosure policy for more details.
Let me just say that those who tend to believe words are just words, or that communication is solely for practical use, don’t know the power of a dad’s words to his children. In fact, I would like to share an example of how I spoke beautiful words to my daughter, but they weren’t even my own.
One night, after my kids had gotten ready for bed, I was looking for a poem to read to my class. (I am taking a teacher training class called the Apprenticeship Program right now, and for a retreat we were asked to select a favorite poem.) So I’m looking for this poem in a small collection I got called A Treasury of the World’s Best Loved Poems, and my youngest came in to ask what I was reading.
She is so sweet.
Maybe she was just tired, but she asked that I read her one. I read her one. She asked for another. At this point, I’m scrambling in my mind and with my fingers to find something I thought she might understand, or at least know what words I’m saying. I found another (longer) one and read it.
By the time I suggested I read another one, she was snuggled up on my arm. She agreed. Here’s an excerpt of The Raven, by Edgar Allan Poe
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore, –
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“‘Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door:
Only this and nothing more.”
Now I know she did not understand most of these words or what it meant, but to my surprise, she loved it (and in the middle asked if I thought that bird was really talking).
At this point I’d like to thank my wife for all her work to nurture our sweet little creative soul. She has taught her to sit still, to be patient, and to have self-control. She is nine, so it’s a work in progress, but isn’t it for everyone?
In any case, she sat still and patiently listened to something that she had no clue about. But that’s not exactly true – the last part at least. She had a clue about one thing: it was beautiful writing.
The last one I read was the one I picked as my favorite:
The Daffodils, by William Wordsworth
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils,
Beside the lake, beneath the trees
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not be gay
In such jocund company!
I gazed – and gazed – but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
By the time I finished she was half-asleep, and I was grateful.
I have it in my head for some reason that most people feel poetry is a waste of time. This was not a waste of time. I tried to be discreet about finding the poem (to my shame), and she found me out. Instead of my daughter finding out how weak I am, she found safety on my arm. She found solace in the words…even though they weren’t my own.
Dads, read to your kids. If you struggle with what to say, read a poem or good classic book. The sound of your voice carrying beautiful words will both nurture and engage their heart.
The best part? I believe trust can be built this way. If you tend to raise your voice, this is for you. If you’re like me, and tend to keep to yourself and do your own thing, this is for you.
You need your kids to trust you, and if you speak harshly or barely speak at all, let them hear your voice carrying beautiful words to them. And yes, it will be good practice for you. The words, the tone, the body language, and the speed with which you speak will all adjust as you read. Consider it practice for how you speak to them with your own words.