The Surgical Touch of a Parent...
I went on a triple daddy date last night with my three beauties. We sat in a restaurant and devoured food together like ravenous beasts, scavenging varmints. I love sitting at a table with them and sharing conversation over food.
This particular date, I decided to bring along a journal with a red pen. The whole way to the restaurant they were drilling me with questions about the notebook. “Why are you bringing it with us? What is it for? Etc.” When we finally arrived, I left it in the car and Aly reminded me, “Dad, don’t forget the notebook!” Oh, yeah. I almost forgot.
Honestly, I didn’t have a clue as to why I was compelled to bring the notebook on our date. I just wanted to be ready for something unexpected, just in case. I had no plan of attack, but my daughters thought I did. They were little “Curious George’s” about the mysterious journal and its purpose on our escapade. Unbeknownst to them, I was making it up as I went. But there’s something fun about adlib.
As we ordered our meal and consumed the bottomless rolls doused in butter, I cracked open the notepad, took the pen, and wrote something atop the first page: “The First Memory of My Childhood”. They tilted their heads trying to read what I scrawled on the page. Kami and Taylor had to read almost upside down since they had the misfortune of being on the other side of the table. Almost in unison they said what is the kneejerk expression of a childhood ego, “Can I go first?”
I started with Kami and gave her a few chances to retrace her childhood for first streams of consciousness. What glory flowed from her remembrances. I worked from my eldest to my second-born and finally my youngest. I was enjoying watching their eyes look up into the empty air and off to their left accessing the lobes of their brain that store the data and drama of story. There are few things that make my daughters come more alive than rehearsing memories.
I moved to the next page and wrote on the top of the page: “Most painful things I have ever had happen to me.” They exploded with memories of broken arms, falling off bikes, emergency room visits and the quintessential “car accident” with their mother. They love talking about stories of physical pain inflicted and endured.
Topic #3 – “Who do you look up to?” Taylor was first this time and she quickly looked up toward the sky (rather ceiling since we were in a restaurant) and pointed to God in heaven. I had to rephrase my question since she was thinking about up as a direction instead of an affection. As they shared their hero’s and mentors, I probed into the why behind their answers and mined out some helpful content. Kami said she looked up to Leslie (our youth pastor’s wife) and I asked her if she ever talks to her and she said, “No, because I don’t have any problems yet.” Hahaha. I was pleased to see that all our girls still consider their mom and dad to be atop the list of “looked up to” souls.
The next pages cataloged topics like: “What is the scariest memory you have?” and “What was your favorite memory?” and “What do you wish we could do this next year?” That one brought about lively conversation. They started with temporary things like Disney and selfish desires, but each of them moved to things like “visiting an orphanage or adopting a child”. They have such a heart for kids that have very little, stateside or overseas. We talked about how cool it would be to care for people in an orphanage and when we could take a trip as a family to a place like Africa or South America. I really want to do that.
We ended with the question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Aly wants to work at a bookstore or train animals. Taylor wants to be a masseuse or a veterinarian. Kami wants to be a combination of a realtor, cake decorator, NICU-nurse, gymnast and photographer. It will be fun to watch these desires unfold into what will really capture their heart into their adolescence and beyond.
They want to do more things as a family. They want a dog. They want a teahouse in a tree house built in the backyard in the clump Ash. They want to adopt. They want to watch home movies as a family more. They want one more trip to Disney…especially the Animal Kingdom. They want to write a song and sing it as a family in our church (we’ll see about that one).
All in all, my girls have all kinds of dreams and desires, memories and moments, wounds and wonderments….and I love spelunking into the caves with them to extract these things from their little hearts. They are learning to articulate and express these things that have wordlessly been stored away in their souls, latently waiting to be exhumed and exposited for further discovery.
It’s so easy to just go to dinner and think that is a date. But the date begins when you take your surgeon’s scalpel and perform an operation on your children’s hearts. We simply mustn’t settle for empty exercises as the end of the means. They are a means to the end. The end being where it all begins, heart connection of the richest fare.
Children are gift of God, blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.