Our feet made similar stride patterns on streets ringing old with history and ambivalence. We were later than we wanted to be and rushed to capture the night earlier lost to slower moving crowds and tourists like us staring at all the lights and glamour that New York City boasts. This weekend was to unfold perfectly. Just the two of us trapped in time and space by our own accord and agreement.
We happily wanted to be there together but had different ideas of what being there was all about. Plans were set months before for us to set out on our own for the first time. A new family tradition set in place with full eager agreement as she approached her 10th birthday. I proposed we escape to an adventure of her choosing, just the two of us. I did it for memory’s sake, but more so as one of the wisest investments I’ll ever make.
More than her never forgetting this adventure, she will always remember it. After all, that’s really what parenting is all about, isn’t it?
. . . helping them to remember who they should be and not forget.
Every time we tossed around ideas and plans for our trip to NYC, a smile graced her growing face and reminded me of her younger. She was not younger any longer - she is not.
Our weekend planned for just the two of us had to be perfect in my mind. Never before had I been so careful to organize a trip. We made a list of all she wanted to do and set a plan on how to get it all done. I’ll be honest and say that I felt like quite the parent in the days leading up to our daddy-daughter trip. In being further honest, I should also say that the idea is not mine originally. In the book “Love Does,” I read about a simple, astounding father in Bob Goff as he wrote about this approach with his own kids. Still I staked claim in my parenting genius until we actually set foot in NYC.
We landed a bit later, the cab ride from the terminal took a bit longer and our room was a bit further from our first stop had to be made prior to dinner at the enchanting place of her choosing. After 14 city blocks and hundreds of slow moving tourists, I noticed a silence hanging between us. I checked in with her a few times asking if she was okay. She met my concern with a simple and unconcerned, “yeah, I’m okay.”
The distance sensed between us began to set uneasily in me. I had envisioned long walks to magical places enveloped by deep conversation welling from her heart. Silence wasn’t anticipated. Block after block, 5 to be exact; I kept count, I wondered exactly how she hurts, what thoughts plague her in the aloneness of her mental space - the feelings she doesn’t always know how to put words to - how those thoughts resolve, if they resolve or just keep ringing with no clear space to land and so on into and through meandering thoughts about her thoughts held to herself.
She just hoped for a weekend to explore a city bigger than she’s ever known with her dad who is often busy with all 3 to afford this much time to only 1, her.
And so, again, the student becomes teacher or maybe more precisely, the teacher learns to be a better student.
My daughters don’t need a father constantly looking and finding ready set to rescue them from anything and everything. They need a dad who knows them because of days and time actually lived together - there in the moment, learning who they are stride by stride.
Parenting is living today in spite of and because of fears presently founded in tomorrow.
boys, dating - mistakes, driving - misuse, college - goodbyes, career - security, purpose - meaning and belonging, family - heritage, God - wholeness
Leading children into tomorrow is a daunting task unfit for those unwilling to learn better.
This is the lesson I learned better walking down Park Avenue her hurried stride matching my longer one: she wants to be known more than found.
The little girl, Elizabeth, I’ve come to know as Lizzie - remade in the months and years following her mother’s death into a young girl transcending tragedy with a learned lean on God’s mysterious grace - walked more than spoke and with every step I knew her more.
An hour later than I planned for, we sat at our little window table surrounded by more pink and frilly things than I’d like to recall. Her little face flashed a smile as she took it all in, the glory of her moment together with me living a dream playing in her mind. We talked about all sorts of things serious and simple and ridiculous. Mostly the ridiculous won out though in snippets of jokes traded and adopted.
Gratitude and humility found me warmly there. It was I who needed to be found most, and found I was by God’s simple goodness.
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