It was a chilly autumn evening, just cool enough to need a light jacket. My then teenage daughter and I had just finished a few hours of shopping and were parked outside a fast-food joint, devouring a gigantic order of French fries that we didn’t need.
The day had not gone according to plan. I left the house with the intention of dropping her off at a church youth event, but somehow we got our wires crossed and discovered we were a week early. So, instead of being annoyed, we went shopping—an antidote for most trivial blunders in life.
With a gentle breeze coming through the car’s open window, it seemed a perfect night for a mother-daughter chat, but we were too busy with the fries to engage in meaningful conversation. Not that we would have anyway. Our relationship had reached that curious phase that often leaves mothers exhausted and frustrated. My IQ had plummeted. My suggestions and advice tended to be met with a rolling of the eyes, a twist of the hair, or—even worse—blank stares. My idea of fun was downright laughable, my list of rules was outrageous, and my driving was plain awful. On top of that, I had no idea what constituted a “hot” guy or a “cool” hairdo these days.
I tried not to be too concerned. After all, I remembered how dumb my mother was when I was a teenager. Seemingly overnight she went from being a wise and brilliant mother to an old fogey with stupid rules. In time, I kept telling myself, the tide would turn, the planets would align, and my IQ would skyrocket.
Until then, I remained steadfast in my efforts to be the best possible parent I could be, loving my daughter unconditionally, being there for her to lean on when she stumbled, and trying to lead by example.
It wasn’t easy. Sometimes my example fell miserably short, and constantly enforcing the list of rules wore me out. The path of least resistance often called to me. But my mother was stubborn too, and I seemed to turn out OK. So, I just plodded on, attempting to do what I believed to be right, while patiently watching my daughter flap her wings from time to time, dreaming of freedom.
As she licked the last of the fries from her fingers, she reached over and popped on the radio, cranking up the volume. A lovely tune by The Katinas called “Thank You” was playing—an inspiring melody, so fitting for the season. I smiled as she sang along, not missing a single word.
When the music faded, she said, “I love that song.”
“Me, too,” I said, then took a giant leap of faith. “What are you most thankful for tonight?” I asked, hoping she would tell me. Hoping we wouldn’t squander this golden opportunity.
She shrugged. “I don’t know.”
I couldn’t let her off the hook that easy. “Well—do you know what I am most thankful for tonight?” I asked, curious.
She didn’t hesitate. “Yep,” she said, confidently. “Just being here with me.”
“How did you know I was going to say that?” I asked, surprised that she had read my heart—something she used to do a lot when she was a little girl.
“Mom,” she said, amused, “I just know you.” She gave my hand a quick pat, making my heart swell. It was what I call a “comfort” moment, because in such moments I knew that my daughter and I were moving along just fine.
As we gathered up the mess we made, it occurred to me that what started out as an accidental evening out, had ended up being quite special. Sharing good food and patches of conversation with my daughter had made it so.
With a grateful heart, I brought the car to life and headed toward home.
Adapted from the article, "Ordinary times provide reason to be thankful," as published in The Dallas Morning News. All rights reserved.