A few weeks ago, there was a Royal Wedding. Not sure if you caught any of that or were aware that happened. I consider this blog to be the 37th place you turn to for the latest news and updates about what’s going on around the world. So if you’re reading this right now and are thinking, “Come on, spoiler alert!,” congratulations, you’ve successfully dodged every news outlet on the planet for almost three weeks solid. (Including this site on Monday.)
You should google it though because the whole thing was pretty amazing. I especially liked the moment when the doors on the balcony of Buckingham Palace were thrown open and Kate, the princess, stepped out to the jubilation of the roaring crowd below. It was a pretty powerful moment of joy and unbridled excitement and I rewound it a few times on the DVR.
Then I sat down at the dining room table to help my oldest daughter L.E. study for her spelling test before school. L.E. has a perfect streak record, with only one less than perfect score, the week her mom was out of town and dad ran the study session. My job was to call out the words. She’d listen, then write the word down and recite it back to me. We went through a few words and then I got distracted. I started using TweetDeck on my iPhone so that I could write a tweet about the Royal Wedding. I started going slower at calling out the words for L.E. as I focused on crafting a really funny tweet. She called me a few times, “Dad, what’s my next word?,” and I’d look up, recite it and then disappear back into my iPhone. After a few minutes, she finally put this note in front of me.
It says, “Daddy pay atensho!”
In getting engaged and distracted with my iPhone I ignored my daughter to the point that she found a napkin and wrote me a note to “pay attention.”
I don’t know if you’re a dad or a mom or have never had kids, but that was about as crushing as a napkin gets.
A few days later, I was talking to my wife about the whole incident. As is so often the case, she lasered into the truth of it so much faster than I did. Here is what she said:
“L.E. and McRae are the ones you really want to retweet you. When they grow up, you want them retweeting or repeating the words of love and wisdom you gave them more than anyone else.”
I keep telling my wife to write a book. She keeps refusing, but she’s right the napkin and her words sounded a lot like Proverbs 22:6, “Train a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not turn from it.”
As a parent, it’s so easy to get distracted by so many things. Maybe you don’t tweet. Maybe you don’t spend more time on facebook than you do helping your kids with their homework. Maybe work or friends or TV or a million other things are the distractions you wrestle with most.
Maybe it’s the opposite for you. You don’t have kids, but you used to be one. You grew up with a dad who was distant. You didn’t grow up seeing the glow of an iPhone on your dad’s face as he unplugged, it was the newspaper he hid behind. And you know the cost of what happens when parents aren’t present.
I don’t know your situation, but I know more about mine because of something my seven year old scrawled on a napkin.
When my daughter is a teenager and the world tries to wound her, I want her to retweet the words of love I spent her entire childhood telling her.
When my daughter is in college and some boy tries to convince her she’s not unique, I want her to retweet the words of truth of I spent her entire childhood telling her.
When my daughter is in her 30s and some hardship tries to make her question her value, I want her to retweet the words of value I spent her entire childhood telling her.
I framed that napkin. It will sit on my desk for years as a reminder of what matters most.
I hope you never need a napkin message to remember that yourself.