I was loading up our things at the beach the other day, getting ready for our trek back to the house when another father walked up and asked me how old the girls were. I told him, 11, 9, 5, and 3. He grinned and shared that he has 3 in high school. Then, he leaned in and looked me square in the eye and warned me, blink and they’ll be teenagers. Given my current predicament figuring out how to organize loads of crap along with four uncooperative kids, the irony of the moment was not lost on me. But still, I got the message. Enjoy it while it lasts.
The best part of my day used to be walking in the door, and all of my girls running to greet me with big hugs and shouts of “daddy’s home!” That’ll never get old. Of course, it doesn’t happen that often anymore since the girls are getting older and I haven’t traveled for work in a year. I still love it when the girls request for me to tuck them in and give them a kiss goodnight (even when I know it’s basically just a stall tactic). We’re both getting what we want out of the deal, more time.
More time is what my daughter Riles wanted as she was having a hard time making a decision about how to spend her vacation allowance. Typical Riles. Everyone else has money burning a hole in their pocket and their toughest decision is how long it’ll take to spend it all. Meanwhile, Riles, who has more money than all of them (combined) because of her own thrifty behavior and indecisive nature in the past has her eye on a lego set. Of course, she’s been thinking about a few lego sets upwards of $100 for a while now. But as she’s neared her mark of being able to afford it, she’s faced with another conundrum… do I spend it all on something I want, or do I delay gratification for just a bit longer until I’ve saved more of a cushion?
You can guess what happened. We left the store without that lego set, but everyone else was content. Meanwhile, you could tell Riles was paralyzed by indecisiveness, and I wasn’t quite sure that the decision she ultimately made was one she really wanted…
Later that evening Riles asked me to tuck her in. She’s a tween now, and starting to assert her independence so when she makes this request, I know it’s a big deal. It usually means she wants to talk to me about something, which she did. She began by saying that she felt pressured to make a decision today in the store. At first, I was about to get defensive…was she talking about me? Was I the one pressuring her to make a decision? I know that’s not too far out of the realm of possibility and I quickly began scanning my memory of today’s events to see if it was likely.
Before I could reach a conclusion, I snapped out of it by asking her, do you know where the pressure came from? Turns out, she did. She felt that she was being pressured… wait for it…by herself. She just felt like she had to make a decision, but she didn’t really know why. I do though. The truth is, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time modeling and vocalizing how important it is to make intentional choices. And not just any choices, good choices. As in our motto that I’ve said to them since they were old enough to talk, you’re a leader, and leaders make good choices. She’s hard wired to equate almost all choices as high stakes situations. That’s on me. Do I have time to undo some of that damage? We’ll see. I guess only time will tell right?
So, we had a conversation about the fact that not all decisions are high stakes. In fact, I told her, if she’s feeling pressure to make a decision, unless it’s a true emergency, then it’s probably a sign that something is wrong. I encouraged her to be curious about what’s making her feel pressure to make a decision about anything, right then and there. I also told her the the more she practices making decisions, the more comfortable and confident she’ll be in trusting her judgment (a lesson it took me much later to learn in life, so I’m glad she’s learning it now). Something tells me that this is a life lesson that will bode well for the future as well.
Time is a fickle thing, it goes fast when you want it to slow down and slows down when you want it to speed up. There’s a saying about parenting young kids, the days are long, but the years are short. That rings true. My hope is that as I celebrate another year of fathering these 4 wonderful humans, I find the time to revel in all that they’re teaching me, and hopefully, what I’m imparting to them.