The server asks what we’d like to drink. I ask for root beer and my son requests the same. She tells us she’ll be back shortly with our drinks while we decide what we want to order. It being one of our usual hangout spots, we don’t need much time because he’s like I am when it comes to restaurants and meals – a creature of habit.
I ask him how school is going and if he has any areas of concern. This is an opportunity for him to come clean about something before I find out in some Parent-Teacher meeting. As always, he says he has no problems and everything is cool. This means, I’m gonna get ambushed by his teachers and counselors in the near future. I know it. But he knows better. He knows what would happen if I DID get ambushed. My facial expression alone would be a foreshadowing of the immediate future.
Even though he denies it or doesn’t realize that there might be something I should know, I let it go. I didn’t bring him here to reprimand or criticize. This isn’t that kinda get-together.
By this time, the server has returned with our drinks and we’re ready to place our order, not having once looked at the menu. We could have placed the order at the time we told her our drink preference, but we’re not pressed for time.
She’s not gone 30 seconds before he opens with, “You know Dad, sometimes I feel like-“
And the confessions begin. Or maybe it’s a question. Or maybe it’s a complaint about something or someone. Or maybe even the answer to the question I asked about school. That’s usually the one because at his age, it’s school or some girl. It doesn’t matter. My son has the floor and I let him talk all he wants. I don’t interrupt unless he says something I need clarification on. Other than that, I just listen.
Depending on the nature of his issues, I offer advice (if he wants it), ask him if he needs my help or just let him vent. The goal is to be a listening ear and a support system, not a judge, jury or executioner. That happens enough at home. This is his time. Our time. Bonding time. A meal and a chat.
This was the scene and the way for years with our four sons. Once a week, usually on Saturday, either mom or dad would take one of them out for a one-on-one meal. Sometimes we would each take a different child to a different location on the same day. And every now and then, one parent would take two out to eat, but that was rare because we wanted them to feel comfortable sharing what they might not have talked about in front of others.
The goal was to solidify and build upon the relationship while illustrating their value to us, all the while, being of assistance. And you know what? It worked! They always came to us to talk, even when it wasn’t “One On One Saturday” and very little was taboo to them. We never forced them to talk about anything, but we always showed that family is home and home is safety and security. Home is sanctuary and we would love and protect them to our last breath.
I got the idea from an incident one day, years ago, when my father woke me up at 6 a.m. one morning and told me to get dressed. I immediately thought that I had forgotten to wash the dishes or needed to mow or water the lawn. He took me to the car and drove to Busy Corner, the main newspaper/magazine store. He bought a newspaper and told me to pick anything I wanted. I bought a comic book and some Twinkies and we drove to Washington Park. We parked and sat. He didn’t say a word the entire time. We just sat in the car, reading until he finished his newspaper. When he was done, he started the car and drove home as I looked at him quizzically, then focused my attention on the world outside my window.
Although we never spoke a word, that was a bonding moment for us and I loved it.
We never did it again, but I never forgot it and couldn’t wait for the day when I could do it with my own.
As you can see, it’s been modified considerably to suit our situation, but like I said, it worked. And now, years later, my boys, excuse me, MEN still talk about how much they enjoyed it and looked forward to their time, which was once or twice a month. We still do it every now and then, but now I ALLOW them to pay while I order everything on the menu (See? that’s God working through me).
Now, they talk about how they can’t wait to have kids and do it with their own…
One on one, from son to son...
I haven’t told them I intend to kidnap their children and do the same with THEM.
Cause that’s what a “G-Pa” does.
And I’ll be borrowing their credit cards before I go…
HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!