Husband & Wife Articles


 

The $75 Slushie

The value of being together is priceless

By Brandon Vogt

About three months ago I went to football game, but I never saw a play. I did, however, leave with one of the most expensive slushies in human history.

The story began when I began to toss a little stuffed football to my 2-year-old son, Isaiah, who loved the game.  The words “Footbaw! Footbaw!” were my cue to toss the ball and roll around, tackle, giggle, and occasionally explain to Mom why a little ball was spinning on the ceiling fan.

So when we decided to take a vacation to Florida State University — our alma mater — we figured we’d treat Isaiah to some fine pigskin sport. We discovered to our surprise that FSU did not admit toddlers for free and that we had to buy three tickets for $75. More than we had budgeted, but we figured it would be a memorable family outing. we entered the gates with $75 worth of tickets.

Once we entered the open-air stadium, however, there was another problem. Isaiah had a stunned expression, overwhelmed by the crowds and the noise that swelled all around us. As we made our way to our seats, he lost it, crying and screaming, and wondering why I’d brought him to such a terrifying place. I tried to soothe him and explain how excited he would be once the game kicked off, but it was to no avail. We were already catching frustrated looks from people around us so I picked him up, trekked down the stairs, and headed toward the tunnel.

As soon as we crossed the threshold into the darkened concourse, it was like a switch had been flicked. Isaiah stopped crying; his shock was gone and he was content. I set him down on the ground and asked him where he wanted to go. Without answering he made straight for the opposite gate, sat on the ground and leaned against the gate. That’s precisely where we sat for the rest of the game.

Any time I suggested we move, he adamantly refused, with the exception of one short trip to the slushie booth. So there we were, a dad and his 2-year old son, sitting on the sticky concrete floor and listening to the sounds of a college football game.

This wasn’t quite what I imagined when I bought the tickets. I pictured me holding Isaiah on my shoulders, a smiling boy shaking an FSU pennant, joy and laughter bubbling out of him as we watched the Seminoles score touchdown after touchdown.

What I got instead for my $75 was a concrete seat and a slushie.

The drive home gave me time to ponder. Isaiah was supposed to have loved his first “Footbaw” game. We were supposed to have a great time sitting in the stands, eating hotdogs and cheering between high-fives. But then it hit me: These were not my son’s expectations.

Sure, Isaiah was excited about “footbaw,” but his happiness hinged on me. Being with me was what mattered to him. He was content to sit next to me on the dirty floor. Hotdogs, warm weather, halftime entertainment, a winning football team — it was all irrelevant.

That day I learned that engineering the perfect experience – the perfect vacation, the perfect birthday party, the perfect fishing trip — was a hopeless pursuit. Things will never go exactly as planned. But instead of discouraging us, that fact should bring great relief.

Our kids don’t want a fine-tuned experience — they just want us.

Next time we take Isaiah to a football game, I’ll remind myself that regardless of the weather, regardless of the score, regardless of the price of the tickets, my son’s favorite part of the football game will be Dad sitting next to him. It took a $75 slushie, but I finally figured that out.

Brandon Vogt, who blogs at ThinVeil.net, is the author of The Church and New Media: Blogging Converts, Online Activists, and Bishops Who Tweet (Our Sunday Visitor). He and his wife live with their two children (and one soon to be born) in Casselberry, Florida.