A couple of weeks ago, I dropped by a friend's house. They were just about to have dinner and invited me to join them, but I had had my wisdom tooth extracted, so I couldn't. Instead I pulled a chair up to the table and just chatted whilst they ate.
As we chatted, my friend's husband told stories about their little boy. The little boy smiled shyly as all the old childhood stories started coming out. At one point, he moaned in embarassment, "Daa-a-a-a-a-a-addddd!" whereupon his father stroked his hair and said, "It's okay, son!"
Throughout the dinner, I kept a close eye on the interaction between father and son. The love that the father showed his son touched me so much.
You see, I know some about the background of my friend's husband. He grew up in a tough and violent family. He didn't have a good role model in his father who was a violent man, and never gentle with his children.
When God blessed my friend and her husband with a son, it took a while for my friend's husband to know how to be a good father. He did not discipline his son very much; indeed, he seemed afraid to hit his son in case he hit too hard.
He used a stern voice to scold instead, sometimes bordering on shouting. It was, I think, a reflection of his childhood.
But then, some friends of the family gently pointed out to him that his little son was very afraid of his father. His son would not go near the father and became quiet and withdrawn when the father was around.
So my friend's husband decided to change. He interacted more with his boy. He talked to him, spent time with him and played with him.
And today, I can see the change in the relationship between father and child. I can see the little boy opening up to the dad and sometimes playfully batting back at his father when his father musses his hair or pinches his cheek. I can see the trust in the son that it is okay just to be in his father's presence.
I respect my friend's husband so much for choosing that different way. I know it's not easy. But the passing-down of violence through the generations is going to end because my friend's husband decided that it would stop with him. His son is going to have a different relationship with his grandson, because he will remember a different tone of voice, a different touch of a father's hand...
Would that all hurting families could heal by the children deciding, "This stops here."