Several years back, someone who I looked upon as highly moral gave me a double-take when I told him I’ve been known to take my kids out for coffee. The moment I let it slip, I felt like my skin had turned green and antennas were growing out of my head.
“Coffee? You take your kids out for coffee?!” He seemed incredulous that I would do such a thing. It was as if I’d just announced that I supply alcohol to my kids and host parties at our home.
Uh…yeah…I do take them out for ‘coffee.’
I regret that, for whatever reason, there wasn’t time to explain that this tradition has very little to do with coffee and that he’d missed the point entirely.
Back when I was a younger version of my self, my father sometimes would say to me, “Hey Rock, wanna go out for a pop?” I rarely turned down such an offer to spend time with Dad. We’d swing by the Tastee Freeze on Highway 2 in my hometown of Poplar, Montana, and have a cherry coke. If I was really lucky, I’d get a heaping plate of hot French fries. I’d make it perfect by squirting ketchup all over the top. One by one, my fries would be popped into my mouth. If necessary, I’d add a second layer of ketchup to the bottom ones that hadn’t been saturated the first time around. Dad and I would talk and watch the vehicles on the highway whiz past and the other patrons eating their food and doing whatever it was they were doing. I loved people watching, I loved French fries, and I loved spending time with Dad.
You see, it wasn’t really about the fries or the cherry coke. Don’t get me wrong; those things were mighty good. It just wasn’t about that, though. It was about relationship.
Espresso shops are the new Tastee Freeze. My girls and I especially have frequented many a coffee or tea shop in our city. We’ve shared countless special moments in those places, and sometimes, some pretty mundane moments just sitting around and enjoying each other’s company.
A few years ago when my middle son was about six, I took him to one of those coffee shops after a school program. We realized we had about 30 minutes to kill before the other kids would be let out for the day so we headed over to a local coffee joint and had ourselves a nice little time.
Flash back to this past Halloween night. Imagine the younger kids running to the mailbox after school to see if Grandma Jane’s special one-dollar-per-every-year-of-your-life Halloween cash cards had been delivered. Indeed they had! My middle son got his allotted eight bucks and added it to the bit he’d been saving in his wallet.
A couple nights later, I found this note and some of his money:
“Oh, I see your big heart shining through that!” I told him upon finding the gift. What a sweetheart he is! In the end, I gave him his money back, but he got a good hug out of the deal, and a used video game he’d been wanting.
A few days after that, with $2 and some spare change remaining, he asked me, “Mom, how much does a hot chocolate cost at Starbuck’s? I want to go out for hot chocolate with you. But there’s also something at the book fair at school that I want, too. I can’t decide.”
(Sounds of mommy-heart melting for the second time in two days…)
“Tell you what, bud, you can keep that money for the book fair. But if you clean your room, I’ll take you out for hot chocolate this weekend.”
He thought that sounded like a fair deal, and he worked hard tidying up his incredibly chaotic bedroom (which, full disclosure, he shares with his little brother). So Sunday morning, before the 11 a.m. Mass, off we went to one of my favorite coffee hangouts.
We prefer mugs over paper when possible. And both of us chose dark chocolate over white and milk.
We had a nice visit; about school and his upcoming birthday party and choosing a Confirmation/saints’ name. (He’s leaning toward St. Sebastian like half his class, apparently.)
When it was time to go, he said, “That was worth the time I spent cleaning my room, Mom.”
So, you see, it’s really not about the pop or the coffee or the hot chocolate or whatever other excuse you want to give it. That’s all fine and good, too, and offers a tasty excuse, but it’s really about something much deeper, much more precious. I’m going to carry that sweet hour with my son throughout the week ahead — and beyond.
Speaking of blessings, those who didn’t have a chance to read my Friday post can see it today on Chasing Silhouettes, “a blog for families and caregivers who desire hope and healing on the eating disorders journey.” I’ve been touched by the responses and encouragement given to my daughter by the various readers here on Peace Garden Mama and on CatholicMom.com, where our post appeared on Friday.
Q4U: What ritual do you do with your children or friends that’s about something other than what it appears?