I’m pushing my grocery cart through the Walmart parking lot, struggling to keep it moving in a straight line. Initially I’m annoyed. I’m thinking I happened upon the broken wheel cart that always seems to find me. Shots of pure joy start rushing through my head seconds later as I realize that all of the pressure I’m feeling is the weight of my four little girls situated all over the cart, inside and out. My five-year old won the fight with the two-year-old twins, so she is in the front. Her legs are dangling and kicking me with each swing. The twins are in the main compartment, alternating positions between sitting and standing, though I beg them with each stride to sit on their bottoms. My oldest, seven, is standing on the front bumper facing me, vacillating her head to see what could be behind her as we draw closer to the sliding glass doors.
The girls are full of anticipation and excitement, knowing that inside are all kinds of things to heighten their senses. The first thing they hear is the bell of the jovial Salvation Army volunteer. She is cheerfully singing, “We wish you a Merry Christmas,” beckoning them to join her. At first sight are “Barbies,” and “Bratz” conveniently lining the entry, waiting for a Mom or a Dad to give into child pressure. As we walk the isles looking for the shoe rack that we set out for, my girls cannot help but grab and pull every object within reach. I almost lose a twin as she refuses to let go of an ironing board. In the middle of this madness is my five-year old asking for a timeline and location for lunch, hoping she’ll hear the magic words; “McDonalds” or “Chick-Fil-A.”
From the moment I started breakfast until now, my senses are also heightened. My blood pressure rises and I experience anxiety, a bit of depression, and worry about the day. You see, my wife had left for a much-deserved day out with “the girls,” leaving me to decide what to do with the next 10 hours until I tuck them in.
Option 1: I send them upstairs to play “school” and go up every once in a while to appease and break up the fights that ensue. With this option I ease my conscience by eating lunch and dinner with them and giving them a minute of my time each time guilt sets in.
Option 2: I become intentional. I plan my day. Instead of determining that they are an inconvenience that gives me an excuse to languish, I consider them accessories that enhance the experience.
This day, I’m proud to say, I choose Option 2. Frustrating seconds become teachable moments. Wasted hours become an opportunity to bond with my daughters and subtly invade their time and space. They learn what Jesus looks like through my patience, discipline, sacrifice, and joy. I learn the essence of true love, which starts with my surrender and ends with ecstasy.
At midnight my wife walks in and asks “How was the day?” I smile and say, “It was good.” My heart is warm, and my daughter’s hearts are tender.
Dads (and Moms), I challenge you to take time to get to know your daughters over this break. They long to be known by us!