Today, I reluctantly agreed to take my youngest to McDonald's for his chicken nugget fix. He insisted on getting my Diet Coke for me, and then led us to the table where he wanted us to sit. Now, my instinct is always to head to the quietest, least crowded corner, but Ben headed to a small table right next to a father and son who were eating their McFeast and chatting together.
Ben was immediately engaged in devouring his food, and so I sipped my drink and eavesdropped on the table next door.
The boy, maybe 11 years old, was telling his dad all about the dance he had gone to the night before, and the dad was commenting back about how glad he was that the boy had had fun. Then dad shared that he had been excited for his son and was thinking about him all evening. The kid wondered why, and dad told him that attending his first dance was a big deal and went on to talk about all the other firsts that he was imagining for his son...first day of high school, first time driving a car, first day of college. He joked with his son that when he got older the boy would start ignoring his dad and only talk to him when he needed some cash. They both laughed about that, and I was smiling along with them.
Who knew I would get to overhear this lovely conversation while sitting in one of my least favorite places (albeit with one of my most favorite people)? My work in child welfare can be so sad and so discouraging, but I'm heartened when I witness these simple moments. Great parenting, an obviously beloved kid, and a wonderful reminder that you cannot love your children too much. There is no way that speaking truth about love to your child can be anything other than good. That boy was so engaged with his dad, and it was obviously a familiar conversation, which has resulted in a confident, happy kid.
Way to go, dad, and thanks. I wish I had taken your picture and shaken your hand. The little things are the big things. And thank you, sweet Ben, for insisting that we sit in the middle of the hubbub, instead of my usual quiet corner. You're a great kid.