I just spent 3 days in Washington D.C. with my oldest daughter, Grace. My wife, Lisa, and I came up with the following plan regarding our kids: when they turn 10, Lisa takes them on a trip. This is where they have Mommy/Daughter time, but also where she talks to them about how their body is changing (special thank you to Molly Westmoreland and her “Seed Planting Mom” material). Then, at age 12, I take them on a trip where we have Daddy/Daughter time. Some place that will help them as they grow and develop in life. Since Grace just turned 12, it was our time.
Grace has always wanted to go to D.C. Studying in school about the three branches of government intrigued her, so she wanted to see the White House, the Capitol and more. And then, about 2 years ago on a family vacation, we met Obama’s speechwriter and of course, Grace immediately connected with her. Sarada and her husband, Naseem, promised us a tour of the White House if we ever were to come to D.C. So, for 2 years, Grace has been looking forward to this (and we only have a few months left with Obama in the White House). So, we let Sarada know we were coming to D.C., and she made good on her promise.
We arrived in D.C. Sunday evening and stayed with some good friends, Mike and Kay Minter, who planted Reston Bible Church 42 years ago. Mike is an incredible, godly pastor, and he started the Justice & Mercy International Pastor’s Conference in the Amazon. He has become a dear friend, and Grace loved hearing stories about how they parented their children and the joys, and sometimes struggles, of being a “PK” – Preacher’s Kid. It was a great night.
Then, Monday, we were up early and off & running. We went to four museums – The Smithsonian Air & Space, Natural History, American History and Udvar-Hazy (all free – yeah!). We had a great day of being together, laughing, and learning. We concluded with dinner at Uncle Julio’s and drove back to prepare for our next day.
Tuesday was the big day! Sarada had to be in Vietnam with the President, but she had arranged a tour of the East Wing at 10am, and then a tour of the West Wing at 8pm. Grace loved the East Wing. Seeing the different rooms, the paintings and the history was so fascinating. After our tour, we did a paddle boat ride on the Tidal Basin. Then, we headed to the Newseum. What a great museum! So much to see and learn. After this we had dinner with Lisa and David Shedd (who just retired as the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency). He told Grace spy stories (he was in the CIA for 35 years), and she loved it. David also partners with us in the ministry in the Amazon through Justice & Mercy International. After dinner, we headed back to the White House for the West Wing tour.
At 8pm, we met Naseem and David (another speech writer), went through multiple security points, and then walked into the West Wing of the White House. It was amazing! We saw the Oval office, the Roosevelt room, the Cabinet meeting room and the Rose Garden. There were very few people around. Naseem (who has his Masters in public policy from the Kennedy School at Harvard) and David gave all kinds of historical facts on past presidents. We did see Obama’s dog before we headed into the Press Room (where all the briefings and the special reports happen). We spent about 1 1/2 hours touring, and Grace loved it! It was definitely an experience she will never forget.
Wednesday we went to a few of the monuments – Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., FDR, WWII, and then to the Capitol and the Library of Congress. After lunch, we had time for the Spy Museum before we had to head to the airport to fly home.
On the way home, Grace started to tear up. I asked her what was wrong, and she said, “I don’t want to share you. When we get home, then I will have to share you with my sisters and everyone.” This was so sweet, and it reminded me of the importance of our one-on-one time.
As parents, it is important for us to raise healthy children. Notice, not “perfect” children, but “healthy” children. There is no such thing as a perfect child, but we can help raise healthy children – physically, emotionally, spiritually and socially. How do we do this? Time. The most precious commodity we all have. But, the one commodity that we don’t always invest in the right places. Kids learn by watching, listening and seeing how others live. I am not always great at this. I need to remember, and I need to be better. The days go slow, but the years go fast. Our children grow up quickly, and we don’t get this time back. While it is a challenge, I encourage myself, as well as all of us, to take the time to create experiences and make memories. To invest our lives in what really matters.
As amazing as it was to tour the West Wing, the best part of our trip, for both of us, was our time together. I am so proud of Grace, and I love her more each day. Above anything else, I pray to be a godly follower of Christ, a loving husband and a great dad. And I, too, will always remember the West Wing with Grace.