If a father without custody of his children makes time to see them, is that enough?

A father planned a surprise outing for his son. The son did not understand the effort, and the father did not understand the surprise would cause the boy high anxiety.

Realizing how nervous the surprise made the boy, he changed his plans last minute to accommodate his wishes.

Upon learning about this exchange, it occurred to me how difficult it must be for a parent without custody, to establish or maintain a bond with their child that is not from a position of indulgence.

It must be challenging to establish a parental foothold if you are not in the home, and even more difficult, to establish boundaries or set rules and expectations.

My answer is irrelevant because this too, is another question where the answer is not mine to know.

None of us knows when someone has given their all, or, is giving their all. We only imagine what someone can give, and we only do this when we want them to give more than what they have.

But what if they genuinely can’t, what then?

If I’m a fitness coach, and I want you to do more pushups, I’ll tell you to give me more pushups. Depending on the type of coach I am, I’ll push until I can see you physically can’t do anymore, or until you tell me you can’t.

Either way, it’s the individual that determines how far they can be stretched, or how far they will allow another to convince them they can be stretched.

We are elastic Incredibles, but only if we believe we are. We don’t have a right to judge others who don’t hold the same belief and choose not to extend themselves past what is naturally comfortable.

Maybe one day, the child will understand the father’s efforts and appreciate them, or perhaps he won’t. Maybe one day, the father will understand the child’s weaknesses and attempt to stretch him anyway, or perhaps he won’t.

I don’t know if it matters, as long as someone stands by to train them, in the dark or in the fog, when they’re tired or when they’re anxious and when they have no strength to continue.

Every child needs to know there is a bell to ring when all becomes too much to bear. They also need someone to tell them they can endure anything presented to them, if for no reason but for them to question their self-imposed limitations. Because life is like Navy Seals training, and as much as a parent loves their child, they don’t want them to ring the bell and return home in the spirit of defeat.

But if they do, it may be best to feed them with encouragement and not food, because the energy of love is scarce in the supermarkets of society.

Belief is the quietest and most reliable resource of every parent and guardian. It is imperative that we allow our children to recognize its sound.