Listening to a Great Day

It was a great day. It was 6:30PM on Sunday. We had returned from a graduation party about an hour away and all three girls had fallen asleep in the van and were continuing their nap in the living room. My wife had to go into work to deliver a baby. It was just me and my seven year-old son, Noah.

Noah asked me what I had planned for the rest of the day. I had a huge list. The kitchen was a mess; the garage needed to be organized; the van needed to be cleaned inside and out; the main floor had to be tidied and I still hadn’t found the source of that smell.

“I’ve got some cleaning to do,” I said. “What do you have in mind?”

“I thought we could go outside and play.”

Let’s see…tracking down the source of an unpleasant odor in the basement or playing outside with my son. Easy call.

“That’s a great idea. But first, why don’t we look online and find a place to go camping this summer, just you and me.”

“Okay! Can we go fishing, too?”

Once we had found a great campground with fishing and teepees to rent, I headed upstairs to change out of my Sunday-Go-To-Meetin’ clothes and into something designed to get dirty. That’s when Noah started talking about his friends and why he gets upset when one friend is mean to another. Being the teacher and ever diligent dad, I immediately saw this as a teaching opportunity. I was prepared to show he could deal with some of the conflicts he faced with his friends. I asked him if he knew what it meant to be sensitive.

He looked at me with a “hello, duh” face and said, “It means I get upset when my friends get hurt.”

From then on, I just shut up and listened. He didn’t need guidance from his wise father. He needed to be listened to from his silent father. He needed nothing more than to know that what he said was important to me. Was it ever. He talked about his favorite movies and how there are more sharks killed by people than the other way around. He talked about Godzilla and how his favorite monster was…all of them. He talked about his faith in God (which dwarfs mine) and about the gifts God has given to him (jumping really high). He talked about his friends who don’t believe in God and how he hoped that they would some day. He talked about fishing and how cool it would be when we went camping together.

Before long, the sun went down and it was time for bedtime. I was expecting some disappointment when I told him that we would not be able to play outside, but there was none. Apparently, he saw how special our chat was, too.

Nothing Noah talked about was new or earth shattering. I didn’t learn anything new about him. I hope he learned again that I think he is the greatest.

©2008, Mark Phillips

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 Women, it's true, make human beings, but only men can make men. - Margaret Mead

Mark Phillips is a Stay-At-Home-Dad and freelance writer. Along with raising his four children, he is developing a franchise called “The Vacuum IS a Power Tool.” It is designed to help SAHDs maintain that which makes us men, instead of hairy Mom-substitutes. He earned a B.S. in Communication/Theatre Arts and teaching certificates in English, public speaking, and psychology from Eastern Michigan University. After six years as a high school English teacher and Director of Dramatic Arts at Powers Catholic High School in Flint, Michigan, he changed careers and became a Stay-At-Home-Dad. or E-Mail

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