The arrival of each new child in a family is a blessing; unless you happen to be one of the kids who already staked a claim in that territory. Claim jumping is serious business. It’s hard not to feel a little displaced when everyone’s so focused on the new guy.
We tried to be sensitive to this. When Philip’s birth approached we talked to the other boys a lot about how important their role was going to be in their new brother’s life. They got “I’m the Big Brother!” buttons and t-shirts. They helped us get the room ready. We tried really hard to make that seem important, but it still sounded like it was all about their little brother.
So we came up with a plan.
We lived in a neighborhood that bordered a small shopping center. Sometimes in the evenings our family walked down to the Blockbuster store and picked out movies together. There was a really great burrito place there, too. It was a nice little collection of small businesses, and they were all a convenient walking distance from our house. There was also a donut shop.
In the weeks before Philip was born we asked Gerrit and Tucker each to pick a day. Gerrit was almost 7 and picked Fridays. Tucker was 4 ½ and went with Tuesdays. Each week, when their particular morning arrived, we walked down to the shop and had a donut together, just dad and son.
And we talked.
We talked about whatever they wanted to discuss. I asked them what they thought about different things. I listened to them. It was obvious that what they had to say was important to me, because I had set aside time to be with just them. It was only 25 minutes or so, but we made it part of our routine. Donut Day happened, rain or shine.
Sometimes we didn’t say much. Men don’t always have to. It’s enough to have another man walk beside you while you work through things in your own mind.
Over time, the topics of conversation changed. Eventually Philip got his own day.
When we moved to a new city, one of our first priorities was figuring out where we were going to do Donut Day. The new house wasn’t close enough to any donut places for us to walk, so I had to drive. Years passed, and the day came when Gerrit drove me to Donut Day. Then he got a car and we had to meet at the donut place, before heading off to our respective responsibilities at work and high school.
Now he’s grown and married, and Tucker is off at college.
This Friday I’ll be meeting Philip at the local supermarket deli before he heads off to school. We really like their breakfast biscuits.
We still call it Donut Day.
originally published 9/8/11|next post Fame