Occasionally, Renee will call me while I’m at work and ask for me to speak to one of our kids about particular behavioral issues. For some reason, my voice over the phone carries a little extra magic that can have a positive influence on such situations. It’s a Dad thing I guess.
I like those times, in some ways. It makes me feel useful, I suppose, and it’s nice to think I can help my children and my wife navigate a tough day.
Sometimes I get a bit gruff, but mostly, being distant and caught up in a work day gives me an objectivity I lack when I’m home. In those cases, I can offer a voice of reason and a bit of a fatherly threat perspective that changes the dynamics.
Sometimes, there are benefits to talking to my kids on the phone. We have intimate moments as they explain to me the events that brought us together for a conversation. Sometimes, they teach me things through and after those moments.
Like, for example, what happened with Ben on a recent Monday. Ben is rarely the problem child, but on this particular day, he was having a hard time negotiating the troubled waters of a small house with a big family. His attitude was in the toilet, let’s say. Renee asked me to do a little plumbing.
Dad: “What’s up, buddy? You having a hard day?”
Ben: [with tears] “Yes.”
Dad: “Why? What happened?”
Ben: “Well . . . ” [more tears, sniffling, and whining] ” . . . blah, blah, blah, they said, blah, he, blah, she, blah, blah, then . . .”
Dad: “Okay, okay, okay! Never mind. I got it. Here’s what I need you to do . . . you listening?”
[This is where I pull stuff out of a hat and see what happens. When I said, “Here’s what I need . . . “, I had no idea what I was going to say next. Don’t tell my kids about that part, okay? I have to say, though, this moment of inspiration was original and produced a better result than most of my stuff.]
Dad: “Okay . . . get on your bike . . . and ride down to the park at the end of our street. Okay?”
Ben: “Well . . . ”
Dad: “Nope, I’m not finished yet. Are you listening?”
Dad: “Ride your bike to the park. Stay there for 30 minutes. Think about your day, and clear your head a bit, okay?”
Dad: “While you’re there . . . and be careful crossing the streets . . . write me a note. Take a piece of paper and a pen, and sit down at the park . . . be sure to tell Mom where you’re going . . . and write me a note while you’re down there. Okay?”
Ben: “Well . . . but . . . what should I write about?”
Dad: “Whatever you want. Tell me about your day. Tell me about what’s going on. Just write me a note. It doesn’t have to be long. Just a few sentences. Just write me a note about whatever you want to say.”
Of course, I had to explain this story to Renee and convince her it would be fine in spite of the way I just messed up her schedule for the day.
But these are the moments when parents learn profound things, though seemingly simple, from their children.
Ben has an amazingly tender heart, a beautiful heart, a heart of worship and love. I love him more than I can say.
Thanks, Ben, for teaching me, and all of us, a little about heaven before we have a chance to “mature” it out of you. Thanks for giving me permission to publish your stuff and share this story.
Later that night, I found this note in my closet: