Not buying stuff forces you to focus on other things. For a moment there, I was focusing on stuffing my face with as much junk food as it would hold. A single step on the YMCA scale told me that my energy was misplaced. Perhaps I could find it in the same place I left my self-restraint. Time to refocus on the important things.
Last week, Gabby and I vowed to eat dinner as early as possible, so we would have some quality with the tiny people in our house before we finally put them in their cages to bed for the night. After all, this year is about building connections, and we should start with those closest to us.
So last week we sat on the couch as a family every night and read The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe cover-to-cover. You see, we’re still keeping our kids in the dark about this whole Year Without A Purchase thing. So Jake and Audrey don’t know they’re “deprived” yet (a minor miracle), but the Scholastic Book Fair at school might blow this whole thing wide open. We hoped a little C.S. Lewis would be enough of a draw to make them forget about any other literary works they might desire.
* a typical storytime, minus Gabby
It worked! Each night, Gabby would chide me when I forgot to use my lion voice, the kids would beg for “just one more chapter”, and we would torture them with a cliffhanger. When we finally finished, we got to discuss the deeper meaning of the book. It’s amazing the concepts a young mind can absorb.
I upped the ante on “togetherness” the very next day when I picked Jake up from school. I had to run some errands, and used them as an excuse for us to spend some one-on-one time with him, just chatting. He independently strapped himself into the car seat. No help needed. Another sign that we are one step closer to the days when I will be a social anchor around his neck, holding him back from fun with his friends.
But innocence remains. We jumped out of the car and he grabbed my hand as we walked into the post office. I smiled.
* enjoying it while it lasts
Our six-year-old sports statistician was grilling me about Kevin Durant’s shoe size when we were quickly interrupted.
“Hey buddy, you got a second?”
I looked down and saw a man sitting on the curb. His eyes were tired, like half-drawn mini blinds. A woman sat beside him with her head in her hands. I got that familiar feeling. A body split in two. One half wanting to hear the man’s story, and the other wishing I had chosen the other entrance.
The sliding doors opened, but I didn’t slide through. My other half wanted to, but my better half was attached to a six-year-old compassionate anchor who knows the meaning of the word “ignored.”
I turned toward the couple, “Sure. What’s up?”
The woman started coughing into her lap, deferring to the man. He explained, “My wife and I sell papers.” He gestured to the lanyard around his neck, displaying a badge that says he works for “The Contributor”, Nashville’s homeless newspaper. “We’ve been really sick, so this morning we went to the clinic. The doctor says we both have pneumonia. By the time we got back, there were no more papers for us to sell, and we don’t have enough money for rent. Can you help us out?”
I let go of my anchor, but stayed in place. Because my anchor knows that I have money in my wallet. And I would much rather my better half explain to him that we should help people no matter the circumstance, rather than have the other half explain the meaning of the word “cynical.”
My better half reached into my wallet and pulled out the only bill there, while the other half wished that ATM’s spit out cash in much smaller denominations.
I said, “God Bless” as I handed him the bill. He thanked us profusely, and I quickly blurted, “No problem.” Unable to fully accept the gratitude knowing the turmoil I felt inside.
Jake and I talked a bit about the couple on the way home. Always the fact-finder, his questions were mostly about details. “What’s pneumonia?” and “What’s rent?” I answered with the best Webster’s dictionary response I could, happy to be having a good conversation with him.
That night at dinner, as we rounded the table with our Thorns and Roses discussion, Jake chimed in.
“OK buddy, what do you want to start with?”
“So what’s your thorn for today?”
“We didn’t get to go out at recess because it was raining.”
“And what’s your rose?”
“We got to help people today. They needed money to pay for their house and we gave it to them.”
Quality time. Well worth the effort. An opportunity to reconnect. Because they say “integrity” is what you do when no one else is watching. I say “teaching” is what you do when your kids are close at hand.
And my other half is doing the learning.