By Patrick Hempfing
It’s not easy being a parent. In fact, sometimes it’s downright frustrating, like when you have to correct your child for the same behavior over and over. Will the lessons ever be learned? That’s why it’s so gratifying when you can see that you’re getting through.
Recently, I came home after playing tennis and said to my daughter, “Jessie, I did something tonight that took a lot of courage.” She wanted to know the details. I told her that I stopped playing tennis because of the weather, even though I expected my tennis buddies to tease me. The thunder had been rumbling in the distance for about fifteen minutes. Every now and then, a flash of lighting lit up the sky. The pending storm didn’t deter any of the other fifteen men who were playing. When I saw yet another streak of lightning, I had a flashback to my childhood. My little brother and I frequently played at the neighborhood ball diamond. We knew that if we didn’t get home at the first sign of rain, there would be a “Mommastorm” when we walked in the house.
After I finished holding serve to complete a game, I told the other players that I was calling it a night. That sounded much better than saying, “I’m quitting because I’m scared of the weather.” I asked one of the players, a farmer, if he felt it was still safe to play. He said, “You never know when a stray lightning bolt might occur.” Still, the rest of the men stayed on the courts while I packed my gear and went home. I told Jessie that it took courage for me to stop even though the other men continued playing.
My wife, Mattie, used my story to reinforce a lesson from earlier in the day. Jessie’s first-grade teacher had given each student a paper doll and instructed them to take the dolls home and decorate them to reflect their interests. Jessie put a lot of thought into her project. She even made a pink dress for her paper doll in the style of the pink dress that she planned to wear for the presentation and glued photocopies of her tennis shoes to the doll’s feet. She skipped into school carrying her doll in a bag to keep it secret, anxious for the presentation time when the students would describe their dolls.
After school, Jessie told us that no one noticed that she and her doll were identically dressed. She told Mattie that none of the other kids had the matching outfits idea, so she didn’t say anything. She wished that she had pointed it out in her presentation. Mattie talked with Jessie about how everyone is unique. People just need to do their best, and then be proud of who they are and what they do instead of trying to be like everybody else, she said. Then she reassured Jessie that this was a good learning opportunity and that she would have more courage the next time.
During bedtime prayers that evening, Jessie said “Thank you for helping Daddy make the right decision.” A smile came to my face. Maybe she’s getting more from our lessons than I think.
Mom, I still come in when it storms. Your lessons stuck.
Until next month, remember to cherish the moments.
Patrick Hempfing had a 20-year professional career in banking, accounting, and auditing before he became a father at age 44. He is now a full-time husband, stay-at-home dad, and writer. Follow Patrick at www.facebook.com/patricklhempfing and on Twitter @PatrickHempfing.