I went on a double date last night. I took my two lovely daughters out to dinner. We had a wonderful time at a local Mexican restaurant that we discovered in our coupon book. One of the goals we had for the evening was to have an adventure together-to go somewhere we had never been before, to experience something new for the first time, together.
Staying in Touch
I got to thinking—how can I keep my relationships with my daughters strong, vibrant, and up-to-date? I have to remind myself to press into their lives. It is too easy for me to carry on with the chores and hobbies of my own life—teaching, rock climbing, writing—and missing out on the joys of entering into their interests. Their worlds are very different—school, musical theater, birthday parties—but, that’s just it, it’s their world.
My wife and I have chosen to provide a private education for our girls. We have placed them in, what I have come to call, a hybrid school. They are home schooled for 3 days each week and they go to school for 2 days. My oldest is a freshman in high school. Her school days are Tuesday and Friday. My youngest is in sixth grade. She goes to school on Wednesday and Thursday.
Both Jill and I are teachers. Our backgrounds help us facilitate our girls’ learning, but it also gives us unique access to their lives. I pick my girls up from school most days. This gives us one-on-one time for the 20-minute drive home. I’m learning how to leverage this time I have with them through focused conversation.
These teenage girls need a dad. That’s me. I’m going to be there for them. Yet, what do I talk about with teenage girls? I’m learning to listen for clues.
I love Julia’s questions. Just yesterday, on our way home from school, she asked me, “How many miles should a car have on it.” The way she asked the question took me by surprise. I wasn’t able to answer it in the form it was asked, so I started at the beginning and explained to her what an odometer was and how it kept track of the number of miles a car had been driven. She responded, “What’s a good amount of miles to have on a car?” I broke down the overall mileage into three categories: under 100,000 miles, 100,000 to 150,000 miles, and over 150,000 miles and described what to expect in each of these three ranges. Her surprise caught my attention. She exclaimed, “I thought the higher number of miles on a car meant that the car was better.” In her thinking, cars were rated by how many miles they could drive. She went right into her next question. “What does miles per gallon mean, Dad?”
I was present when my daughter learned something about her life. More importantly, I taught that something to her. In this case, that something was pretty insignificant.
I am fortunate. Julia loves to ask questions. She has a curious curiosity. I love the questions she asks me. Most of the time they come out of left field, but they are always perceptive and sincere.
Listen, You’ll Know
I have made the commitment to take the time needed to get into my daughter’s lives. This is a bit of a stretch for me. I’ve got to make the effort to engage with them in conversation. I’ve found a good place to start is by asking questions of my own. And, listening to their answers. My daughters are very willing and open to talk with me. They want to share their lives with their dad. This is going to be easier than I thought.
What are some of the activities you have found that you enjoy with your children? What are the conversations that you have had during those times? What have you discovered about your children through those conversations?
I’d love to hear from you. We are all raising up the next generation together.Image source: Jill Bedell