With three kids and a couple of businesses to run Ana and I have not been spending enough time individually with our kids. We do a lot together as a family but that precious one-on-one time has been rare, too rare in my opinion. So last week we decided to start taking each of our kids out on a date for dedicated daddy or mommy time.

The other day Ana took the girls to do some girl stuff, Emma and Cady LOVE girl time with their mom, so I asked Kwamane what he would like to do. He told me he wanted to go to the “little mall”.

I had no idea what the “little mall” was so I asked Ana. She drew a blank so I asked Cady as she is fluent in both toddler and grown-up but she was stumped as well. He kept asking and each request became increasingly more urgent. I couldn’t let him down so I just pretended to know where to go and loaded him in the car hoping for divine direction. I turned right from our driveway and immediately he told me I needed to go the other way. I thought this three year-old kid can’t really be giving me directions but when he told me to turn around the second time, I decided to see where the adventure would take us.

He doesn’t use the terms left or right yet, he doesn’t understand what those words mean, but he can point quite convincingly and so he did. Ten minutes later we were approaching the freeway toward Los Angeles and that is where it dawned on me.

In November we were on a road trip to LA on business and we took the kids with us. Just south of Las Vegas near the state line there is a gas station that Chevron claims to be the largest of theirs in the world. In November we had stopped to show the place to our kids. They have airplanes inside and race cars, motorcycles, and off-road racing trucks. And they have a ton of stuff to buy that kids can’t keep their hands off of.

As we took the exit he assured me I was going the right direction and when we pulled up and parked at the Chevron, I asked if this was the “little mall’. He assured me again that it was with a smile meant for a hero. He was so excited you would think we had just pulled up to Disneyland when we walked through the doors.

The next hour and a half were spent touching everything he could reach in the store. We took a french fry and water break then did another lap or two and he was just as excited as he was when we first got there, yet he was respectful and gentle. But it was his heart that almost brought me to tears. He saw things he would like to play with but most of the time he was telling me what his sisters would like. I didn’t say much at first, I couldn’t. I just smiled at him and tried my level best not to tear up. Then I told him that his sisters love him so much and I was proud of him to be thinking of them. That’s the way he has always been. If he gets a water bottle for himself he brings one to each of the girls as well. He shares everything if they ask and usually without hesitation. Ana and I have always been that way with each other and our kids.

While we were there he found a round thing on the shelf that looked like a ball. He tried to bounce it and it broke open and the slimy contents splattered all over the floor. He looked at me and said “Sorry dad”. I told him it was ok, it was just an accident. I took his hand and walked to the counter to tell a staff member.

When we got there he told the clerk he was sorry again, she didn’t acknowledge him so he said it again. I asked to pay for the broken item. The lady said not to worry about it, she could just write it off. I insisted on paying, and said it was the right thing as no one else should pay for our mistake. The lady processed the sale then told me that the same item gets thrown by someone three or four times a week but no one has ever offered to pay for it. After I did, I asked for something to clean up the mess. Kwamane took a cloth too and we both walked back to the accident scene and got down on the floor and cleaned up the mess together. I told him what a good job he had done and thanked him for his help. I felt good that this precious little boy got to see him and me do the right thing.

We drove to a gas station he had been to four months ago and he remembered exactly where it was and how to get there. God gave me a chance to teach him in a gentle loving way about taking responsibility for our choices and actions even if it was an accident. When we got home the first thing he told mommy was about our trip to the little mall and the french fries and the ball that broke and how we paid for it and he and daddy cleaned it all up together.

He remembered where the “little mall” was and he won’t ever forget that experience we had there, or any other we have together, whether good or bad. I am the man he patterns himself behind. The weight of that truth sit’s heavily on my heart. He and his sisters inspire me to be a better man, father and husband.

He was so proud of himself. And I was so proud of him.

And again that day, this special little boy brought me to tears.