Last Saturday morning, my grown son and I had one thing on our agenda — hanging out at his favorite Lexington, KY bagel shop. It was a busy, savor-your-Saturday-morning kind of place. I ordered the double bourbon: a maple bourbon bagel with maple bourbon cream cheese chased with a hot mocha. He ordered the daily special: sourdough salt.
We claimed a table-for-two in the middle of the shop. A few minutes later a two-year-old girl and her parents occupied the table next to us. She was beyond cute: little blonde pigtails high on her head and pink and green frog socks. In her toddler restlessness, she began to wander a bit, trying out nearby tables. Her daddy laid his newspaper on the table and caught her eye. “Do you want to read the paper?” he asked. I was puzzled at his question. What toddler is interested in the newspaper? To my surprise, she came to him immediately, crawled into his lap and he began to share the morning’s news with her. He made up his own captions and stories for the photos and pointed out a myriad of things on each page. He even made the classifieds interesting for her.
To my son, a veteran newspaper journalist, the moment was totally precious. “Start them early,” he said to me, “reading the newspaper. Parents like that keep us in business.”
Father and daughter had no iPhone, no games, no toys, and no books. Just the two of them, reading their newspaper together.
Had I taken a photo it would show a daddy cherishing his little girl and including her in his world. And it would show a little girl enthralled by her daddy as he brings the newspaper to life for her. They’ve obviously done this many, many times.
I’ve ventured down a few trails as I ponder that morning. I’ve thought about the importance of routine and ritual in a young child’s life and in the life of their family. Sometimes I think we as adults are so busy with our own lives that we don’t take the time to establish ordinary habits with our kids. I suspect the little bagel girl with the frog socks will be reading the paper with her daddy for years to come. In the near future I can see her finding letters and numbers she recognizes. And not long after that she’ll be finding words she knows and sounding out others with the help of her daddy. As a young adult she’ll be reading the paper with her morning coffee because it’s what she does. It’s what she’s always done. The only difference will be that the cream cheese from her bagel won’t be spread from ear to ear across her face.
More important than my rabbit trails is the what I saw first hand:
- a parent present with his child
- a parent including a child in his world, rather than shoving the child aside as an interruption or a bother
- a child enthralled with her daddy
The Saturday advice from the bagel shop is quite simple:
Show up: be present with your children, your grandchildren, your nieces, nephews, or whatever children come into your life.
Do your work: include them in what you are doing and fully participate when you are asked to play with them. Create daily rituals.
Claim your lives: You — and the children — will be rewarded with memorable moments.
Until next Tuesday . . .