Last week, at the end of a long day, my 12-year-old son turned to me and said the words that every father longs to hear:
“Dad, thanks; this was the greatest day of my life.”
You could only imagine the emotions I felt that day; feelings that could only be described as overwhelming happiness, validation, joy and love. All parents know that you may go a lifetime and not hear those words, so to hear them come from my son’s lips was a special moment. We had just left the NBA Draft in Brooklyn NY on the way back home to Queens and had a great night all around. My son knows his father to be one that talks and connects with any and everyone. From the food vendors, the ushers in the arena and of course all the great people in our section. Just Hashtag #section205 on Instagram and you’ll see what I mean.
The epic day actually began 24 hours earlier when I informed my son that I had two tickets for he and I to attend the 2014 NBA Draft. He was surprised, enthusiastic and filled with anticipation. I called him from work the day of the event, and asked if he was ready as a way to build climax to the event. Once we arrived, we took pictures, entered the arena and headed straight to the concession stand to get the $10 chicken nugget/french fry special and a $10 hamburger. He watched me connect and joke with the vendors about the price tag of a burger that didn’t even come with fries. Before you knew it, after a slight head nod from vendor to vendor, someone appeared with a plentiful supply of fries “on the house.” My son loved it, shook his head with approval and said “you always make friends wherever we go Dad.” He and I spoke about the power of connection, the importance of treating people with respect and the power of laughing with people. They vendors didn’t comp me the fries for any other reason but a connection that formed out of respect, presence and a nice laugh between us.
So we made our way to our seats, Section 205, with food and drinks in hand and sat down ready for the draft. Section 205 weren’t front row seats but ended up being the best seats in the house because we made it the best section! My son and I quickly spoke and became acquainted with everyone in our section. We had new friends from France, Alabama, Utah and yes even Brooklyn! Lakers, Knicks, Bulls, Orlando and Miami fans all band together to have a great night. Again, I modeled for my son how to stay present, have fun and connect with the experience. He was laughing, joking and rooting for his team with a group of people who 30 minutes earlier he had never met. We ended up all rooting for each others teams to get the draft pick they hoped for, started “Lets go Knicks” chants and someone (I can’t confirm or deny who) even started the chorus of boos towards Isiah Thomas. Any Knick fan can figure out why that one started.
The most touching moment of the night came when the NBA decided to recognize another Isaiah, his name was Isaiah Austin,; who was diagnosed with Marfan Syndrome a week earlier. This young man had worked his entire life to make it to the NBA. He was projected as a first round draft pick, only to find out he would never be able to play professionally due to his diagnosis. My son was able to see and feel the power of empathy as everyone in our section and arena stood up and gave Isaiah Austin a standing ovation. A conversation about courage, adversity and hope ensued between a group of NBA fans, young and old which I will always remember. It was special.
At the end of the night, tired from a long day, we headed to the train to go back home. As my son and I headed to the train , he looked at me and uttered those heartfelt words:
“Dad, thanks, this was the greatest day of my life.”
When I asked him what made it such a great night, his response was amazing. He hardly even referenced the actual NBA Draft itself; and spoke more about the experience of the time we spent, the people we met, the french fries we ate and the laughs we shared. And I knew what he meant, his sincerity of tone told it all. What we experienced that night was more than a sporting event. It was a bond and connection between father and son, brought about through presence, laughter, love, communication, passion and trust.
What made the night so extraordinary?
Here are 7 Lessons From That Epic Night With My Son:
- One on one time is important– It is important for parents to spend individual quality time together if you have more than one child. This allows for a personalized conversation to occur and you will find your child asking questions that he or she may otherwise not ask if siblings were present.
- Stay present– Put the cell phones away and the business calls on hold for a couple of hours when possible. The gift of being in the moment is powerful and lasting.
- Make your child feel special- The night belonged to my son and he reveled in the attention. Children respond best to positive reinforcement and research proves this. Children who feel loved, validated, and special perform much better academically, behaviorally and socially.
- Laughter is good for the soul- Too often parents get caught in the stresses and responsibilities of everyday life. Balancing work and parenting can be very stressful, so its important to be serious but don’t take yourself too serious. Children need to see your lighter side and your ability to laugh out loud.
- Show children the importance of connection– Showing children how to see the good in others is very important. The value of friendships and connections all contribute to a happy and healthy upbringing.
- Teach children compassion- My son was able to experience the empathy and support 15, 000 fans showed towards Isaiah Austin when they recognized him. The conversation that ensued was priceless and my son really felt for Mr Austin’s plight. His eyes opened up as he was able to see what adversity, courage and hope looked like through the eyes of a compassionate lens.
- Be kind to people- I was able to model for my son the importance of treating everyone with respect and kindness that night. The result was some free french fries and better yet 20 new people who I’ve connected and plan on staying in touch with.
Think about what has made for great nights out with you and your children and share with us. We would love to hear what factors and lessons you took from your best moments together! And hopefully it will someday rise to the level of “greatest in my life.”