Have you ever surprised yourself by attempting, and accomplishing something that you didn’t know you were capable of? The other day on my way to work I listened to a podcast of a sermon talking about a single meaningful question that we can ask ourselves each day. What would an extraordinary version of myself do today? It’s almost an odd question, because think about it, isn’t that a high bar to hold for yourself everyday? Yet, I would argue that it’s a necessary one because guess who’s watching you? Yep, that’s right: our future. In my case, it’s Riley, Olivia, London, and now Alexis, everyday looking, listening (well let’s face it, the listening part happens less and less), but mostly they’re watching. And they’re noticing things that you and I wouldn’t necessarily think that they would notice.
Case in point, 2 nights ago I decided to hang out with my girls for a little while before bedtime and they taught me a valuable lesson about what they notice. Usually if we’re done with dinner, teeth brushing, clean up, and bath time before 7 or so, we’ll let the girls watch a little disney junior before bed. The family might gather upstairs in the playroom with the lights out cuddled up on the couch under a blanket or rolling around on the carpeted floor with London (the toddler) until it’s time to go to bed. It’s usually good family fun except that’s also the time where I’ll catch up on some reading.
Anyway, this time it was just me and the girls (mommy was downstairs catching up on work). I came into the playroom with my I-pad in hand and declared, Daddy’s here girls, ready to hang out! What are we gonna watch together? To which my middle daughter Olivia replied, you’re not going to watch anything with us, you’re going to read on your I-pad. Feigning offense I asked her, why do you think that? Riley (my oldest and a brilliant thinker in her own right) responds, well then why did you bring your I-pad? All I could do was shrug and acknowledge the accuracy of her statement. Then we proceeded to “hang out” together for the next hour while I read next to them, cuddled under a blanket while they watched their shows.
Later that evening when I bragged to my wife how I spent some quality time with the girls (apparently I’d forgotten the entire preceding conversation), she reminded me of something important. Her love language is quality time, and I suspect at least one of my daughter’s love language might be as well. Let’s face it, everyone spells LOVE, with TIME to some degree. Years ago I’d learned that what my wife actually means by quality time is not just sitting next to me and being in her presence while doing something on our own, but actually engaging in an activity with her, talking, or (gulp) watching a show that she likes and being interested. *face palm*
Fortunately, I got a do-over last night. Again, we’d finished our evening activities early, and while I was downstairs doing some reading, as the clock ticked towards 7 I decided to put my book down for a moment and go upstairs and hang out with my girls. You know what? It turns out they’re kind of interesting people! We ended up watching a show called The Lion Guard, which, I knew they watched but honestly had never seen before (not good practice, I remember when Riley was little we watched everything she watched to make sure it was up to our standards…you get lazy or BUSY as families grow). At any rate, I liked the show, and more imporantly, I enjoyed the time spent with my girls. I asked them questions about their favorite characters, we ate grandma cookies together (of course), and we laughed cementing memories of the evening.
It was in a word, extra- ordinary. Something out of the norm, and while the norm isn’t terrible, it’s also a reminder that I can always do and be better. You know what I hope? I hope that over time, my daughters grow up with this idea that someone who cares about them, will invest in quality time with them, and they will have a unique template of what that looks like because of time spent with their father. That’s something worth being extraordinary.
I wrestle with that tension sometimes between growth and the daily realities of life. Sometimes I think it’s ok to take a “C” or a “B” in an area of my life, whether it be parenting or work in order to strive for the extraordinary in another area. What we choose to be extraordinary in depends on the season or priority, but one thing that’s undeniable is that our kids are watching us, and our extraordinary will one day become their expectation. So it begs the question, what kind of expectations are we setting for ourselves now, and them later?