Break the Rules

Posted on December 21st, 2013

I really enjoy being a dad.

As I was preparing to give Alex his bath last night, he stared out the window at one of the neighbor’s houses. “Lights out there, Dad! Lights!”

“Yep, you’re right,” I said. “They’re pretty, aren’t they?”

“Yeah, lights!”

I paused a moment so I could change the subject. “Come on, bud. Time for bath!”

I was tired. It’s been a long week–late nights, early mornings, the stress of trying to finish things at work before a long vacation. I was already in sweat pants, looking forward to maybe watching a movie before heading to bed myself.

I went to the bathroom to start the water. He padded along behind me, but then darted to his room. As I reached for the faucet, he came back with some outdoor clothes.

“Lights?” His voice trembled, realizing that we were about to do the normal routine, and that meant he’d soon be in bed. I could tell he was about to cry.

As a parent, I prefer to maintain routines. It’s good for kids to know what to expect each day, and this works for us–I rarely need to discipline him (other than the occasional playing too rough with his brother or the cats). On the other hand, I’m very mindful of helping my kids develop their independence. I want them to feel like their opinion matters.

I took my hand off the faucet. “You know, Alex, you’re right. Let’s break the rules and go look at some lights.”

We spent a half hour driving around our town, looking at all the lit-up houses. We talked constantly, pointing out the colors and the stars and the snow men. Alex had a blast (I did too), and when we got home, he went to bed without complaint. Even though I was still exhausted from the stress of the week, that half hour helped melt that stress away.

Sometimes we get so stuck in our routines that we forget to stop and admire the lights. I hope you take the time to break the rules with your family this holiday. Or on a random Monday.

Our time here is short, and knowing when to give in on something small can make a huge difference to a little boy. And his dad.

Enjoy life. It matters.

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