Have “our bench” and other stuff.

Not all at once, but over the course of the next couple years, see if you can identify a few places, events, or things that become connecting points for you and your little girl.

Things like, “Our movie.” “Our song.” “Our restaurant.” “Our book (or book series.)” “Our video game.” “Our secret signal that says I love you.” “Our park bench.” “Our booth at MacDonald’s.” “Our emoji.” “Our podcast.” “Our scripture verse.”

How do you begin to identify a restaurant or park bench as “Ours”? Well, you want to make it seem organic and spontaneous. Something that just “happens.” But there are ways you can help orchestrate that.

For example, invite your daughter for breakfast at McDonald’s. Choose an open booth. A few weeks later, go again and sit in the same booth. Then do it again. Eventually the two of you will be walking away from the cash register with your tray of food and someone will be sitting in your regular spot. In that moment, your booth becomes your booth. You can even whisper to your daughter, “Oh my goodness! Those scoundrels are sitting in our booth. Should I alert the manager?”

The same approach applies to that certain park bench, restaurant, or even an emoji. It comes down to repetition. If you sign off on a text to your daughter with a silly unique emoji a few times in a row, that little piece of art could be an unspoken connection that brings smiles to both the sender and receiver for as long as smartphones exist.

Some mutual connecting points should be spoken right out loud. You can certainly imagine yourself saying, “Hey, Clara. We haven’t been to our restaurant in a while.” Or “There’s our bench! Let’s sit for a bit.”

Especially when Mom and any siblings are gone for the evening, you should take advantage of that chance to do something that’s “just yours.” Go out for sushi. Order pizza with anchovies. Make four-alarm chili. Watch old Harry Potter movies. Listen to Motown classics. Play Settlers of Catan. It comes down to identifying preferences and creating shared experiences. Rae Anne and I could watch You’ve Got Mail once a week for the next decade and it would still be engaging.

As for “Our Scripture Verse.” Go ahead and pick one. Sign it in a note to your daughter this week and then again on her next birthday card. If you happen to see it on a plaque or wall hanging, take it home as a just-because gift. Inscribe it on a ring or bracelet charm. Find a verse that has a personal meaning for the two of you. You may want to consider, “I thank my God every time I remember you.” (Philippians 1:3) or “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33) You might even develop a shorthand version of those verses that you can say anytime your daughter heads out the door, “Every time” or “Seek first.”

(Excerpt from Girl Dad by Jay Payleitner and Rae Anne Payleitner)

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