Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Powerful Reminder

Shawn here.

Most mornings I'm the one helping Nessa get her day started. Tami and I settled on that schedule when we were both working, and it became habit. It used to mean actually getting Nessa dressed, but now it's mostly just encouraging her to finish so that she can eat breakfast, or watch cartoons, or whatever. However, on Tuesdays I attend the mens prayer breakfast offered by our church. This means I usually leave before Nessa is awake, or at most get to say a quick goodbye before heading out the door. Nessa seems to accept this as part of the rhythm of the week.

This morning Nessa woke up with a bloody nose before I left. Tami got her cleaned up before I headed out the door, but not dressed. As I was getting ready to leave, Nessa was asking Tami to come watch her get dressed. Tami laughed and said "Does Daddy watch you get dressed? He's spoiling you." Then she looked at me and said "This summer I usually just told her to go get dressed." I responded "Maybe Daddy doesn't need to watch her anymore."

When I turned to hug Nessa again, she had her classic trying-hard-not-to-be-sad expression. Thinking she just didn't want me to go (a frequent occurrence), I hugged her and reminded her that I'd see her at supper. Her face didn't change, so I asked what was wrong.

Quiver. "I like Daddy watching me get dressed."

I realized that she'd taken my toss-off reply to Tami literally and seriously, and although she was trying to be a "big girl" about it, she was unhappy. I told her that we would talk about it later, but she shouldn't be unhappy now. You'll have to ask Tami how well that worked, because I had to leave then.

This incident reminded me, powerfully, of several things I need always to remember.

1) Children take you literally. They understand silliness and jokes, but they don't understand nuance and subtlety. Watch what you say, because they won't pick up on how you say it.

2) You don't always know which time is quality time. My morning time with Nessa doesn't seem like much on the surface, but her palpable sense of loss made it evident that she values it greatly. The special "let's do something fun for an hour" times are good and necessary, but the routines and interactions that build up over time and develop a history of their own have a far greater impact--for good or ill. Make sure they're for good.

3) My daughter loves me. My presence is important to her, and the things we do together are shaping her in a million little ways that I don't always see or comprehend. I have to make time just for her every single day we are together.

4) God has blessed me beyond my ability to express. To have this rich pattern of relationships, to be surrounded by those I love and who love me--when I had accepted that I would spend my life fundamentally alone--is to realize that I have everything that truly matters in this world. I must treat those people and that love as the precious treasures they are, never taking them for granted and never squandering them.

Tami, Nessa, Megan--I love you. Thank you for making my life so rich and full.

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