"Dad, what am I like when I'm with you?"
I was on a date night with Aly and in the course of our conversation she fired off this question. It caught me off guard, to be honest. What 14 year old musters up the competency, moreover, the courage to ask that kind of question?
I think we were in the middle of talking about she and her sister's friendship groups and how they interact differently. She was talking about Tay and how her friends relate and interact. I contributed my two cents on what I'd observed. We talked about Kami and the nature of her friendships as the oldest sibling in our family. (she casually mentioned that sometimes she wishes she was the older sister so that she could feel more comfortable leading...that's a whole other wormhole in our conversation). But eventually we landed on her friendships and what she feels about them.
She was in an observational mode of communication stating things she noticed in others and how they showed up in life when she looked me in the eye and said: "Dad, what am I like when I'm with you? What do I act like?" I gathered my thoughts, swallowed, and took my best shot at giving an off-the-cuff response to a pretty deep question. It was one of the most unforgettable conversations I've every had with her.
How many people live the entirety of their lives and never get the nerve to ask someone else that question: "How do you experience me?" It's a pretty vulnerable invitation. But the wisdom you can gain as people share what it's like to be with you can be life-altering and game-changing. I know that I probably have no idea what it's like for people to experience me, to live with me, to listen to me, to follow me, to trust me, to talk to me, to be patient with me, etc.
I heard someone say one time that 90% of life is just "showing up".
But I think it goes beyond that. Once you show up, do you know what that looks like for other people? Do you care to know? If you do, you must care enough to ask. It starts with asking someone you trust to share with you what "doing life with you" feels like.
"What is it like to spend time with me? What does it feel like to be with me?"
She went on to talk about what she was feeling the night before after learning of a pastor's wife that was shot in the head and killed by an intruder during a house invasion. It was a sister church in our denomination and she said it just made her feel afraid. She slept with Kami that night and was describing how she prays every night out loud in her bed before she drifts off. As she was laying next to Kami in the dark as the second born, she tried to pray in her head and she couldn't do it. She told me that she can only concentrate when she prays out loud, so she turned to Kami and said: "Can I pray out loud before we do to bed? I have to pray and I can't pray very well in my head." Kami was like, "Uhh, ok." And Aly proceeded to pray to set her heart at ease in the presence of God. She ended her prayer and paused to let Kami pray. Kami didn't offer up a prayer and Aly was fine with that but described feeling a little awkward in that moment. Like she wasn't the eldest and yet was leading...making her feel like it might seem like she was trying to look better than Kami (which she said wasn't her intention). It was a fascinating conversation...simply stunning.
All in all, it was a date night of deep discussion and conclusions. I hope to always share a relationship with my daughters that is full of joy, peace and freedom...for those are the three things I pray that they will maintain with a high degree of potency throughout their entire lives. The world will seek to kill those three core characteristics, but I'm praying they never lose them though life's storms will violently batter their woman-hearts.
God, what is it like to be with me?