Loving Pasodoble Style
The cool November air brings a lot of changes in our home. Most notably (at least for the sake of this post), the work demands on Angie increase as people want to look their best for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. In turn, this means there are more nights when Angie has to work a bit later, leaving more time for the kids and I to do our own thing. Last night, we met as a family at Starbucks so that Red could get her time in with the baristas that she so loves and the adults could get a couple of doppio espressos to keep the engines running through the night. Angie left Starbucks to go back to work; we were left deciding what to do for dinner.
Luckily, TD is fairly opinionated on what he wants for dinner. Sometimes that leaves us in a position to have to manage his desires, sometimes we just roll with it. Craving a vegetarian espresso burrito, I asked “what about going to Mi Mexico for dinner?” TD’s response was “no, let’s go to Panchero’s. The thing is, they have the best quesadillas.” Even though I wanted my burrito, my son’s ability to use my own linguistic syntax against me left me absolutely melted, so quesadillas it was. After quesadillas and beans for the 3 of us, we went back to see Angie at work and introduce the kids to her client, who is an old friend from high school. Upon reaching the salon, TD grabbed a Dum-Dum sucker, then his sister grabbed one as well. Why I let her suck on that thing for 5 minutes is beyond me. Angie describes me as “brave” in my parenting, but I think it’s code for “crazy.” While driving home and Red screaming in a sugar induced joy in the backseat, I decided we needed to burn off some of that sugar. So we headed to Best Buy to purchase our copy of Toy Story 3, then next door to World Market to get TD some Pocky. With Red in the throes of a full-fledged sugar crash, it was time to head home.
“What’s my point?” you ask. Here’s my point: at Starbucks, Panchero’s, the salon, Best Buy, World Market and home, I saw a different thought pattern, behavior and approach in the way my kids reacting to the uniqueness of each environment. And it occurred to me how dynamic that makes my relationship with them. I think it’s critical that they see that my character doesn’t change based on our environment, I’m always daddy and I’m the safe place. They know I’m going to set rules for them. But as long as they stay within the WIDE parameters of my rules, they’re free to be themselves. My rules exist to protect them, so they have to be there. But my ultimate goal is my relationship with them. We didn’t walk straight to Toy Story 3, grab it and head to a register. We walked around the entire store, showing Red new things and letting her use her senses to experience the store. TD grabs things off the shelf and talks to me about why he wanted to show me. We looked at 4,000 things at World Market, 99.9% of it was absolute crap, but my kids love the stories and ideas we tie to that crap. Honestly, slowing down and just being with my kids in different environments enhance my relationship with them so much. I measure our productivity by the number of laughs and lessons we share, not the number of things we accomplish.
It hasn’t always been that way for me, but I’m glad it’s that way now. I want my children to have plenty of time where they just rest in their father’s love for them, with no urgency, no fear, no feelings of needing to earn my love. As we were getting to the register, I said to TD, “why are we buying this movie?” His response? “Because I’m special.” I couldn’t think of a better answer than that. It brings me joy because I know I never look more like my Father than when I’m showering grace and love on my wife and children.
As you head into your weekend, think about those you love. Do they rest in your love or do they have to earn it? Are you generous with your time, attention and affection or does it have to be solicited? I don’t the people in my life to say “Ryan loves me if/when…”; I want them to say “Ryan loves me.” Part of that is putting myself in positions to love them in new environments, so they can new dimensions of my love — even when that makes my job as a parent harder, it makes my love all the more powerful. As TD’s night wore down and his hysterical laughter at Buzz going pasodoble-style echoed through the house, I was struck by how powerfully his joy impacts me. The move love I give, the more I’m blessed — what a great concept. I don’t know if I’m brave or just crazy, but learning to remove the conditions to my love is worth it.