Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Just When You Think You've Lost Them

Spring break was nice for us. Low on funds we spent most of the week at home. This allowed for many "Daddy and Dora" mornings. I am especially blessed with a job which, during certain times, allows me to stay home (summers and holidays mainly). My wife works in the mornings and I work in the afternoons. This is where Daddy and Dora morning or days began.

Being an only child, our daughter needs playmates and who better to play with her than her dear old dad. So it started one morning long ago (about 5 years ago actually) with my daughter asking me to play "talk animals" with her (that's another story altogether). This became routine and Dora began asking "Is today a Daddy and Dora day?"

Though they have evolved over time, we still have our Daddy and Dora mornings and sometimes days. (I even have the t-shirt.) Spring break allowed us 6 Daddy and Dora mornings (and one whole Daddy and Dora day.) It was nice to connect with the princess.

This morning, day two of our return to normal post holiday life and thus, our Tuesday trip to 2nd grade drop off, my daughter forwent (?) her usual request of "Aragorn" (o.k., that's another story too) and simply informed me, "I love to read" as she opened her Calvin and Hobbs anthology (well, it's mine really). Silence on the way to school.

I didn't like it. Is this what we will become, my own parents and I not speaking on the way to places? She'll do her thing and I'll have to sit here and try to think up something to say to pull her into a conversation. Gosh I hope not. I want her to talk to me. I want her to want to talk to me. I need the connection, and I know that she does too.

She was still reading as we neared her school when all of a sudden she said, "Aragorn!" I looked and she showed me she had once again finished off a rather large book. "We're at the school already!" I half kidded, and told her a small bit of the story we were working on (Aragorn and Chastity (Daddy and child). She figured out the riddle I posed (part of the story) and beamed at her cleverness. (me too) It was time to exit the car. Time to run into school. Time for our separation, a harder time for me I think than her...but today, just when I had been thinking I was losing her, she took several steps toward the door, turned, and ran back to the car for a quick kiss and an "I love you Daddy."

If she only knew.

Friday, March 6, 2009

A Quiet Lunch and a Close Call

As I sit typing this, my princess is here in my office with me. It is the beginning of her spring break so they let the kids out of school early. We had a wonderful Daddy and Dora lunch at the cafeteria. I was able to listen to her uncensored questions and comments throughout our hour and fifteen minute lunch. It will most certainly be the highlight of my day...if not my week.

While she was speaking to me at one point I noticed an elderly woman approach an individual at a table and glanced over to where this was occuring, for some reason attempting to understand the meeting. Upon returning my eyes to my little one, she asked "Why were your eyes over there like that?" I explained the situation I had observed and she replied, "When I look at something, it means I'm listening to it." This comment threatened to fly by me until I replayed it in my mind with some Daddy translation: "I was talking to you Daddy and you stopped listening...why?" I can only guess the rest of the discussion might have included her confusion as to why I thought something else was more important than what she was saying to me. Fortunately, I caught it and let her know I was listening to her and was very interested in what she was saying, then repeated it to her so she knew I had heard. This satisfied her and she continued. Close call!

Close call? Why? I believe those moments are important. There is a comercial running on the radio currently which reminds "dads" that we will never know which moments will make the most impression on our children. The lean is toward the positive, but we all know the door swings both ways. They remember random negatives as well. So, I believe in those "small" moments and feel like I dodged a silent bullet. How many do we miss though? How many children take those blows in silence, only to incorporate them into their self-concept? I did. I still revisit a few innocent slights from my parents, and a few not so innocent. They didn't know, and they loved me, but I didn't understand all that in those moments. I took the blow and simply and quietly concluded it was personal.

Sometimes I think I am too liberal in my compassion for children. Sometimes I know I sound like a bleeding heart and I don't want to do so. But then I remember the greatest "bleeding heart" of all. He never faltered in his clear, compassionate love for his best friends, or to any He met. Jesus took his words, and his relationships very seriously. I think if he had had any children, he would have listened to them all the time. I think he would have marveled at the wonder in their eyes and teared up as he remembered or anticipated their saddness. I think he would have gone to bat for them at all costs, and valued them more than even his own life...

Yeah. Close call.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Her version of "Wash Me"

Yesterday afternoon as we were preparing to go out, my princess, noting the layer of dirt on my bumper chose to write a message to me. "I love my Daddy". I guess I won't be washing for another several weeks.

Why is it I want to save everything she touches. I have scraps of paper she made a couple of marks on from 6 years ago. I guess that is the nature of "cherishing." I cherish everything she does. Or do I? Do I cherish her time, and how she spends that time? I have to honestly ask myself that question. The answer is not so attractive to me. I sometimes see in myself the dark selfishness which has plagued me since my youth. Sometimes I'd rather do this or that and not cherish her presense in my life.

How odd. How tragic. One day in the not to far distant future, she won't be a child anymore. I will so miss her (though I have noticed that, though I miss her 3s, I enjoyed her 4s, and though I miss them, I enjoyed her 5s.....and so on.)

I know that she cherishes her time with me. She reminds me every day, asking me to stay, having a hard time separating from me. It will not always be this way either. Some day soon she will choose to go out rather than stay with me. Some day she will choose to talk to a friend on the phone rather than stay with me.

What is wrong with me? I am lost in the trap of "my time." This is "my time" and if I give it away by spending it with you, it will be lost forever. How much of this Daddyspeak will be about things that happened during "my time?" 0% This is about her time...and the gift to me of being able to share in some of "her time."

Monday, March 2, 2009

Before she's gone

Just this last Sunday I was again convicted to keep a written record of my life. "Journaling" they call it...until now. Now it's called "blogging." A way to keep a record. A way to capture and contain memories. The conviction, by the way, was to keep a record of my daughter's life. I am actually interested in holding on (danger ahead) to everything that she does...for her...and for me. This is a way of prolonging the "dance" (Ref. Dance with Cinderella).

Last week, Daddy was late on Thursday. I have been working out a way to keep from being so late in the future, but that is for another post. Last week my precious daughter sat on my lap while I ate dinner (she's 8) and proceeded to share information about her day in a rather continuous stream. When she fell silent, her mother and I began a brief side conversation which was interrupted with "Why is it that people don't understand that you can't always know which way to run and then they yell at you." Uh oh... With a bit of encouragement, through her tears of dissapointment, we learned she had been "scolded" by her peers for some error or other in a recent game of kickball...her first of two games of kickball she has ever played.

My daughter has been blessed with more talent than I have ever seen. Unfortunately, like her dad, she was not particularly blessed with athletic skill. In fact, like her dad, she doesn't really go out for sports at all. So it was no surprise to me that she was caught in an error...I can remember many from my torturous days in P.E. I was acutally more surprised the day before when she shared her joy at having "accidentally" run the wrong way after kicking the ball but then correcting her "error" and running at "super speed" to tag the base. "You can't believe how fast I ran."

So to hear that one day later her feelings were so hurt that she sat out the rest of the game and cried all through library...I was understandably crushed. I was grateful for the two friends who comforted her...angels in pig-tails I am sure. "Where was the coach," I asked. Where is the "sportsman-like behavior" lecture? I won't judge too harshly because I don't know where he was...but I would like to think that yelling at a teamate for an error is something a coach should be listening for...as a teachable moment. If not, well, the kids will grow up to be like their parents...yelling at their kids for errors, on and off the field.


At interesting side note, her favorite of our attempts to help her feel better involved her wishing that "all the teachers were closed off in a room" and the "principle was locked in his office" so that Daddy could say (or do) anything he wanted with those kids who hurt her feelings. I regret to admit, this was one of my favorite thoughts as well.


We call those kinds of kids "tearer downers" at our house. The opposite of "builder upers." I think she knows what I mean when I pray for both in our evening prayers. Thank you God for the builder upers in her life....and thank you for the parents who took the time to build those little builder upers. You know who you are....you're the ones who are sick of the tearer downers in adult life.

The givers and the takers. God give us the wisdom as parents to be givers, and to give the world our greatest gift: our children - who are ready to give more.