Randolph Churchill almost never gave his son Winston any attention.
While Winston was at school, Lord Randolph gave a speech less than two miles away…and didn’t stop in for a visit. Winston wrote to his parents seventy-six times from 1885 to 1892, and they only wrote to him six times.
Their letters were mostly negative.
Winston’s first surviving letter was occasioned by the fact that his parents celebrated Christmas without him, somewhere else.
After dinner with his own son in the late 1930s, Winston told him, “We have this evening had a longer period of continuous conversation together than the total which I ever had with my father in the whole course of his life.”
Randolph thought Winston would never amount to anything. He let Winston join the army because he didn’t think Winston was smart enough to be a barrister.
Yet Winston worshipped his father, always writing glowing remarks about him and writing a complimentary biography of the distant man.
Lord Randolph had indeed accomplished much in his life, including the annexation of Upper Burma to the British Empire.
But Winston Churchill would dwarf him in stature and significance, becoming one of the leading figures of the 20th century. Despite this, Winston always lived in his father’s shadow and craved his approval.
After World War 2, during a dinner with family, Winston’s daughter asked him, “If you could seat anyone there, whom would it be?” She expected an answer like Napoleon, one of the many giants of history whom Winston admired.
His answer: “Oh, my father, of course.”
Later, he wrote an account of a dream he had where he talked with the ghost of his father. In the story, his father never suspects that Winston was the great statesman who had helped win the war.
It is in this story where Winston Churchill finally gains the approval of his father.
After all of his accomplishments, after his objective success in history and literature, after his monumental achievements in politics…Winston Churchill was still haunted by his father’s disapproval, fifty years after the man had died.
This is the power of a father. This is the power of our simple approval.
A father can haunt their offspring, an oppressive ghost that harries them for their entire lives.
Or a father can bless their offspring, strengthening their hands to do any good work.
You have tremendous power. Use it wisely.