This past week I mentioned to Kim that I didn’t know Anna as well as her two older siblings. I know what Nintendo games she likes to play. I know she loves macaroni and cheese and which Smurf is her favorite. But I don’t really know what makes her tick. I want her to feel comfortable talking to me. By default she goes to her mom. Maybe she gets lost in the shuffle. Luca is our oldest and is involved in many activities. And Lincoln is my oldest son who enjoys working with me around the yard. I need to find some common ground with Anna and go from there.
So I decided to look for an opportunity this week to spend time with Anna without the distraction of her siblings.
Today, the opportunity arose where I was able to take her to work with me. I moved her car seat over to my car and left for Redmond. I knew I had about 40 minutes in the car with my youngest daughter to talk about whatever she wanted. I adjusted the rearview mirror so I could see her face in the backseat. She gave me an awkward smile framed around her cute blond hair.
I started by lobbing a few softball questions like what did she enjoy about pre-school. I know. What a lame cop-out question.
“But dad, aren’t you going to turn on your music?”
“Nope, I want to talk to you”
It doesn’t take long for me to realize that Anna would make a great politician. She answers the question she wishes I had asked.
Anna isn’t sure what to make of all this attention being paid to her by her father, and that makes me sad.
As we near my office she begins to open up a bit more.
“If Grandpa and Grandma take us to Disneyland again, will you give me some gum so my ears will pop in the plane?”
Her questions surprise me. But all of them make me smile. I have a bright and inquisitive 5-year old daughter whom I want to know better. I realize that it takes time. I can’t rush it. But I don’t want to be one of those fathers who puts work ahead of his family and then tries to build a relationship with his children when they are teenagers.
For lunch we walked to one of the many cafés on the Microsoft campus. Anna orders a slice of cheese pizza, chocolate milk, and a cookie. She was reserved, and maybe a little intimidated at the sight of so many strangers. She sat next to me and asked a couple of questions.
“Is this what big people do when they go to work?”
“Why does everyone carry a computer to lunch?”
I wasn’t sure I was making much progress. We finished lunch and began walking back to my office. As we crossed through several parking lots and busy streets, Anna took my hand and held it tight.
And she didn’t let go until she was safely back in my office.
As I tucked her into bed tonight, I asked if she had fun at my office today. She glanced to make sure Lincoln and Luca were listening before replying, “It’s the best time I ever had going to work”.
That made me smile all night.