Admonitions such as this to my daughter were commonplace during the years my kids and I spent raising each other. I say that because I’m pretty sure they did as much to help me mature then, as I hopefully did for them.
Part of this reciprocal learning process was for me to realize that every child’s personality, even siblings born to the same parents, is completely different—different likes and dislikes, different motivational factors, different outlooks on life. All of this, of course, means two different methods of child rearing.
In those days, Robin and I communicated frequently and at length. So much so that at times we lapsed into leaving written communiqués for each other, which gives rise to this weekly missive. I have saved everything, some would say almost literally, to the point that I now need to thin out a life-long collection of memorable artifacts. It was either that or move out, and although it was a tough decision, living indoors is something I’ve become really fond of doing.
The archival dig has unearthed hundreds of inner-house notes and messages. To the point of differences in siblings, this was not the case with my son, Lee. He didn’t talk until almost two years of age. Then for a while afterward, we thought he would never quit. These days, conversations with him can go either way.
One direction is when he calls and shares excitedly on a variety of topics. All that’s required of me is some sort of “listening noise” just to let him know I’m still on the line. Things like, “Uh-huh,” “Really,” or “That’s great.”
The other? It’s when the conversation sounds more like me asking, “How’s everything with you?”
“What have you been doing lately?”
Like pulling teeth. But, I have to say, “He came by it honestly.”
Going through the boxes of keepsakes from rearing my children, I was reminded of the most rewarding conversations with Robin—the “make a note and let’s get back together” sessions.
Robin and I would meet on the back porch for rocking chair discussions, better known as debates. These were more often than not, to allow her a chance to sell me on something which she was reasonably convinced from the outset was going elicit a quick “no” from me. So, a rocking chair conference was called.
She would present her case. And, she was good at what she did. It was no small coincidence that Robin was on the Bandera High School debate team, and also no fluke that they always placed well in UIL competition. She got lots of practice working on ol’ dad at home.
They usually went something like me rocking, looking out across the back yard down toward the Medina River and listening quietly, nodding or wrinkling my brow every so often, trying hard not to tip my hand on which way I might have been prejudiced.
She often made a good case therefore gaining my approval of said request, an action that occasionally earned me a nod for “Dad of the Day.”
Other times, after hearing her out for 20-30 minutes, or whenever she paused—whichever came first—if the proposal failed to smack of “good idea,” I rendered my verdict. “Robin, I’ve listened to what you’ve said, I’ve taken it into consideration and I don’t think that’s a good idea because …”
“Dad—why not, that’s not fair,” was the typical outburst to such a ruling. To her, this was automatic granting of another 10 minutes for a rebuttal. Should she fail to sway me at that point, that’s when the infamous words were delivered. “Make a note of this conversation, Robin, and let’s get together again in about ten years.”
Little did I know at the time that those notes would turn out to be moments of sheer delight after Robin married and was raising her own family. “Dad,” she started a conversation one day, “Do you remember the times we would talk on the back porch and you would tell me to make a note to get back with you in 10 years?”
As I began to nod, she continued, “Well, you won’t believe the conversation Sarah and I had today. It was the same talk we had once, but this time I was the parent, and it all came back to me—you were right. Your ‘no’ response was the right answer.”
My “kids” are 35 and 37 this year, and in case you haven’t picked up on it, I love them both very much.
Funny, it never occurred to me until just now. I wonder if she’s using the “make a note and let’s get back together” tactic with her children?