Oh, the weather outside is frightful… well not really. It’s been warm and sunny, so it’s not bad by most people’s December standards. After a long couple weeks of Christmas shopping, bill paying and holiday planning I decided I owed myself a night off to relax. I rented a movie and set aside some time for myself. My youngest daughter’s week had been a little rough. She’s 16 and has an occasional health emergency related to an ongoing condition. This week it required a 911 call and an ambulance ride. I spend a better part of that workday in the emergency room with her. She missed one of her finals so it left her anxious about the need to do a make up test. The good news: she is fine. It’s all been stressful, but we made it through the week. It was Thursday and I had one day to go. So I gave myself some down time to just relax and not worry about work or kid issues –or anything for two hours.
A typical weekday night at our place; my son was off playing video games and my daughter was in the kitchen planning some baking for a holiday party she’d been invited to. The living room was all mine. Last year my wife and I decided to buy a Christmas present for us. It was a massive HD TV. You know the type- way too big to be practical but just too cool not to buy. So we splurged- and for an encore I bought a surround sound set to go with it for New Year’s. This night was mine. I could relax, watch a movie and still get to bed early enough to be effective at work on Friday. Stretching out on the couch with the volume up -to window-shaking levels- gives me a great sense of satisfaction. Since my wife was out of town, this was a perfect opportunity to do just that. I dropped in the move and went to the kitchen to grab a drink while the disc got through the previews.
My daughter was stirring some cookie dough and asked me if it looked right. I’ve been cooking since I was a kid and the kids know I’m usually happy to be in the kitchen when they’re experimenting, so I looked it over. “Yep, looks right for sugar cookies” I said. “You’ll need to put down some flour when you roll it out.” “Where’s that?” she asked. “It’s in the pantry.” “Here” I said, reaching into the shelves and pulling down the flour. “Do you want to help me with the cookies?” she asked. “Not tonight. I just dropped in a movie.” I told her- moving towards the living room. I plopped down on the couch and reached for the remote. Before I could hit ‘play’ on the Blue Ray I hit ‘pause’ on myself.
She and I have not been on the best of terms lately. She’s 16 and I think she believes I’m the enemy sometimes. It’s tough being dad- whether you’re a biological dad or not. Sometimes a good dad has to say no and risk being unpopular. She’s gotten a lot of no’s lately. Just the same, we’ve gotten through it and we’ve been having some good conversations since that day in the emergency room. I shut down the movie and turned off the TV. “I changed my mind.” I told her as I came around the corner into the kitchen. “Let’s do some baking.” “What about your movie?” she asked. “It can wait. I can watch a movie any day. How often do I get to bake Christmas cookies with you?”
We baked and frosted and decorated for four hours that night. We destroyed the kitchen and I got flour on my work pants and frosting in my fingernails. She saved a sugar cookie –which was the only one of its shape- for me to decorate just for my consumption. It was round so I decorated it like a Christmas bulb –and ate it! We finished off the night watching a Charlie Brown special I’d recorded. I fell asleep before it was over.
My daughter’s a junior in high school and will soon be going away to college. There may not be many more chances to make Christmas cookies –just the two of us. I could have watched that movie –and I did the next night… it was just a movie. But last Thursday night I decided to make Christmas cookies with my daughter instead. I hope it will go into her memory as a good Christmas evening spend with a daddy who adores her. I hope it was fun. She didn’t mention it, so I don’t really know what it meant to her… but it meant everything to me.
Sometimes being “dad’ isn’t about buying them things or giving them a speech or making them dinner each night. It’s about the time we spend together. This week it was the two of us baking Christmas cookies. Maybe next week it will be shopping with her at the mall or driving her somewhere she wants to go… I’ll remember not to pass these little moments up. The experience has reminded me of something I already knew: I’m their dad because I care about them –but there are sometimes these amazing moments where I get paid back for my efforts –in a strange, intangible ways. Dad’s, don’t miss out on those little moments. Sometimes they are actually very big moments that will mean as much to them some day as they mean to you today.