Dear Dad & Daughter at the restaurant tonight,
I apologize for listening to your entire conversation tonight. Yes, I completely, utterly 110% eavesdropped to every word you shared for thirty minutes. I just couldn’t help it. I heard one line and I was hooked. Your conversation was beautiful. It was inspiring, touching, heartbreaking, scary and affirming. Thank you for being in the right place at the right time. I needed to hear your conversation tonight, so thank you.
All my best to you; may you both continue to talk to each other as you did tonight,
A Secret Admirer, a.k.a. The Orange Rhino
My doctor’s appointment wrapped up early tonight and I had thirty minutes before the babysitter had to leave. I haven’t had any me-time lately so I decided to seize the free chunk of time and the beautiful weather and go sit outside for a quick dinner.
I sat down and ordered a beer and nachos and soaked up the warm weather, the breeze, and the absolute peace and quiet. Of course it wasn’t really quiet. There was noise all around but none of it was that of my four children asking for another napkin, another crayon, another trip to the bathroom or another French fry so to me, it was perfectly quiet. It was so peaceful in fact that my supersonic hearing picked up on the conversation next to me.
A teenage girl, somewhere between eight and twelfth grade (it is so hard to tell these days, you know?) sat across from her father nervously playing with her napkin. By the information she shared it was clear that she didn’t live with her dad, that her parents were divorced and that this was her night with him. They talked easily yet with a bit of tension. But still, they talked. He asked poignant questions, she answered politely. I heard their voices but not their words until she said this,
“You know dad, at this conference thing kids were talking about how at parties you raid the medicine cabinets at your own home. You then bring all the drugs to the party and dump them into one big bowl. Everyone then takes a handful, or two, of the drugs, and then chugs two drinks. It is really, really stupid.”
I sat there, my beer in my hand; my mouth dropped open and tears filling my eyes. My heart pounded with fear, really? Really this is what kids do? How frightening! And really, really this daughter felt comfortable to talk about drugs and actions with her dad? How phenomenal. I sat there all confused except for one thought: “way to go dad!”
The conversation continued. She shared more about how she was making new friends, how she wasn’t so worried about being friends with the cool kids anymore, how she didn’t want to be in the wrong crowd, just a good crowd. He listened quietly and nodded appropriately and then replied to her brave sentiments of truth,
“I am really proud of you sweetheart. It is hard to make new friends. It is hard to turn away from bad situations. I am so proud of you.”
He must have said it at least three or four times. Again, tears filled my eyes and all I could think of was, “way to go dad!”
The conversation continued, this time focusing on her upcoming graduation. She mentioned that some girls were buying fancy dresses; that she didn’t really care about a puffy dress, that graduation wasn’t a big deal. Again, her dad listened sweetly and replied ever so lovingly,
“Graduation is a big deal. I am proud of you. Your mom can take you shopping for a dress if you want. Or even I can, after dinner. We could go to what’s that place, JC Penny’s or the place with the JC in it?”
“You mean J. Crew dad,” she laughed.
“Yeah, we could go there. I’m proud of you. It’d be an honor to get you a dress.”
“Nah, it’s okay,” she said, “I’ll just wear something from my closet.”
Their dinner arrived and silence commenced. I of course had to interrupt it; it was time for me to get going and while they had talked and connected, I had written both of them notes and wanted to hand deliver them.
You see, as I sat there listening to them, watching them both try so hard to connect, yet connect so easily, I just wanted them to know how awesome they were doing. I wanted the dad to know how fantastic it was that he had raised a daughter who felt comfortable talking about drugs and personal struggles with him. I wanted the daughter to know how fantastic it was that she had found the strength to turn down drugs, to turn away from a bad crowd, and to now be graduating. I wanted them both to know how much their honesty and lovingness reminded me of my promise not to yell; how I hoped to have such conversations in the future with my boys, how I knew remaining yell free was one key to achieve that.
I looked down at the two notes I scribbled on dinner napkins. I pondered doing nothing. I pondered crumpling up the napkins and not saying a thing. I pondered minding my own business, wondering if I would rock the boat by saying anything. And then I thought how nice it feels to be paid a compliment. I decided that the risk was worth it. I reached into my wallet and put some money inside the note for the daughter. I wrote next to it:
“I have four boys. I will never buy a graduation dress for a daughter. I know your parents would love to do so for you; trust me, it is an honor for them. But let this be a little contribution towards it. You deserve a new dress to celebrate.”
I nervously pushed my chair back and walked to their table.
“Excuse me,” I said. “I apologize for listening to your conversation. But I was just really touched and so I wrote you each a note. I hope someday that my boys feel as comfortable talking to me as you all talked to each other tonight. Best of luck to you both.”
I quickly left the napkins and scurried off, praying they wouldn’t return the money or catch me crying.
Today had been a hard day, a throw-in-the-towel type of day, an I-can’t-do-this-parenting-thing type of day, an I-don’t-want-to-do-this-parenting-thing type of day, an I-just-want-to-freakin’-yell-and-be-mean type of day. There is a lot I didn’t want today. But, let me tell you, hearing this dad and daughter talk drugs and good crowds and bad crowds, well, I do want that type of thing in my future. Big time. I want my boys to feel safe talking to me about everything and I believe that having a “yelling less and loving more” home is a great way to get there. I have been having to worker harder with the not yelling bit lately; my stress has made it harder to stay calm and I have truly wanted to give up, or rather, give in to the desire to yell. But witnessing this beautiful conversation tonight, well, it reminded me of the what I can have if I continue to yell less and love more and for that, I am re-inspired (and grateful!)
If you liked this post, read “I Just Want The Truth”