“So dad, what about you? How are you doing?”
“So dad, what about you? How are you doing?”
Kami and I were sitting in T.G.I. Friday’s on a Daddy-Daughter date this last Tuesday when she paused between eating her fried green beans appetizer (to die for) and asked me that question.
I took her out very purposefully this last week. There are many times we go out together and it’s just what you do…you do a regular date with your daughter. But this week, I had noticed a different kind of silence about her. Even in talking with her mom, we both agreed that she seemed to be “under attack”, which is often hard to pinpoint the source or even the symptom. It’s almost barometric. It’s a shift in pressure more than temperature. I don’t know how to describe it other than you can just feel the change in the air.
I was asking her questions about her friends, her school, her feelings, her day, her week, her Freshman year, her thoughts about anything and everything under the sun. At a point, you feel like you’re interrogating your poor child because there is so little reciprocal inquisition. It’s just pop questions and quick answers, like you’re playing tennis but the ball isn’t getting hit back to you. It’s great serving practice, but it isn’t good tennis.
And then, BAM! “So dad, what about you? How are you doing?”
I was in such a drumming-up-conversation-via-relaxed-questions-so-that-your-daughter-doesn’t-feel-interrogated mode that I was completely caught off guard.
“Well, um, let’s see, I’ve kinda been thinkin’ about…my dad a little bit lately and whether he’s going to have to go through dialysis or straight to a kidney transplant. I also have been thinking a lot about our family and how everyone’s doing with us not having our own house and all.” It was such a jolting sucker punch that it took me a moment to get used to the returned serve.
The rest of our food came and I was just about to say, “I’ll pray for our meal” when Kami grabbed my hand and said, “I’ll pray for the food.” Sideswiped again. She dove right into one of the most beautiful prayers I’ve ever heard her pray right there in the middle of T.G.I. Friday’s.
“God, thank you for this day and this food that you’ve provided for us. Thank you that I have a dad that will spend time with me and take me out on dates because he cares about me and how I’m doing. I know that a lot of dads don’t do this, so thank you that I have a dad who does. Help us to have a great night together. In Jesus Name, Amen.”
It’s funny 'cause just before she asked me how I was doing and volunteered to pray, I was thinking, “The older Kami gets, the less it seems she cares to go on dates with me. I feel like I’m the only one who is asking questions and her answers are short and to the point. I wonder if she is annoyed that I’m probing into her heart and her feelings and her world? I wonder if she feels awkward being alone with me? I wonder if I’m not doing something right? “
And then BAM!
After she prayed, we got to talking about what to do the remainder of the night and she had an awesome idea of looking at purity rings for her sister Aly’s 13th Birthday. She knows that it’s coming up next month and she wanted to browse jewelry stores with me. So we did. And it was awesome. We actually found a ring together, shot a picture of it over to her mother, got the ok to buy it, and purchased it. She got her purity ring cleaned while we were waiting.
The night served as yet another reminder of something I know, but easily forget in the flurry and fury of my own self-conscious emotions as a father, that no matter what it looks like on the outside, gestures of care and love and concern matter to a child on the inside even if they don’t seem to be making much of an impact or impression.
As parents, we cannot allow our child’s re-actions to dictate our pro-actions. We must cling to our creeds and believe that now matter what the exterior response, our children need our proximity, they need our presence, even when—especially when—they appear like they don’t. That fact is so easy to forget in the fray of feelings.
My feelings as a father cannot be the driving force of my parenting. I must follow my deep beliefs with faithfulness. I must carry out my creeds with courage especially in the moments where it doesn’t look like it’s making much, if any, difference…cause it is. Even if I don’t get a “question” or “prayer” as an immediate payoff, any time I spend moving toward my child’s heart is not wasted.
“Don’t grow weary in well doing for in due season you shall reap a harvest if you do not faint.” Galatians…chapter something, verse somewhere.
Come on, parents. We can do this.