Today, I did something for my youngest son that I have never done for any of my children. I have not done this because the idea popped into my head while I was at work today.
I took him out to dinner on his birthday.
We have celebrations and family meals but tonight, it was just me and my nine year old. No tech devices, no agenda … just hanging out.
He initially wanted to go to McDonald’s but he confessed his real desire was to go to a fast
food place with a play area.
We ended up at Chick-fil-A.
We stood back from the line to decide what we would order and I let him go first and tell the nice cashier what he would like to have for his meal. He was a little nervous but he got his order out like a little gentleman.
“Dad, can I go play before I eat? I don’t want to get sick and throw up,” he explained.
“Not a problem, buddy. Go ahead,” I replied.
He went off, removed his shoes and began to ascend his goal. Every new level he reached, he looked back to see if I was watching. I smiled and gave the thumb’s up of my approval. When he got bored, he would motion back to ask which way I thought he should go through the activity area and I would motion a direction. He would nod, smile, and then carry on.
At one point while he was climbing through the deep recesses of the play area, I whispered a prayer thanking God for giving me the idea to do this. It was such a blessing.
When I motioned him back to me, he responded dutifully and we had a simple dinner together. We had a good conversation about school and the bus ride today. I actually got him to eat all of his six piece chicken nugget meal … that was a surprise!
But a bigger surprise was when I released him back to play in the play area for fifteen more minutes.
When he entered the first time, I had not noticed the size limit on the door. What it
showed me made me drink in every one of his last fifteen minutes of climbing, laughing, and sliding.
He is about one half inch away from being too tall to play on one of the last indoor play areas available to him.
When his time was up, I called him to go stand next to the measuring line to confirm what I had noticed and to also talk to him about it.
“Next year, you’ll be too big for this play area, buddy. What will you want to do then?”
“But, what if I’m not?” he replied.
Kids really know how to grab your heart.
If he had his way, he would Peter Pan through the next few years just to avoid the pain of being banished from the play area. I explained to him that maybe he would want something different next year instead.
We came home and sat together in his room. At dinner, he asked if I would sit in his room and play Disney Infinity with him for a while.
We played, screamed and laughed for about two hours. He chose the characters. He chose the missions. He chose how we played.
It was his night.
And now it is done.
“Dad, would you want to come back in and play with me tomorrow?” he asked.
“Why wouldn’t I?”
He smiled his best smile and hugged me goodnight. I think it was the longest hug I have ever received from him that did not involve him crying.
Who knows … maybe this time it did as well.
In a little less than two months I get to take my soon-to-be 15 year old twin boys out to dinner. We will follow the same protocol (just without the play area). I am curious to see what that night will reveal as well.
I am hoping that they all capture the same thought that I have pondered for the last 4 hours. Childhood is ending … what will we do now?
Me? Are you kidding … I kept humming “Watercolour Ponies” to myself as he climbed and tried not to lose it.
I guess I will be scouting out bigger outside climbing areas for next year just to be sure.