In 2011, a couple of years after the Weatherman and I got married, my father-in-law shared with me a letter he gave my husband one Christmas along with the gift of a new waffle iron. It was 2002 and at the time the Weatherman was a young father to three little girls. I’ve saved the email all these years and on the heels of She Speaks and listening to Shauna Niequist and reading her new book Present Over Perfect I combed through my inbox and pulled it up again. And so, tonight I thought I’d share the wise words of my father-in-law (who I affectionately refer to as Swiss) and in doing so honor he and a man I never met.
You’re Giving Me A Waffle Iron!?!?!?!?!?
Not quite a rite of passage, but certainly more than just an everyday gift is where we might classify a waffle iron. You see, waffle irons and dads go hand in hand in the Dale family. Your father and his father before him (that would be me and my dad) considered making waffles as part of their domain. It’s something for which Dads are ultimately and totally accountable. Moms are in charge of a lot of things in our family (at least dad’s try to let them THINK they are . . . ), but they’re prohibited from messing with the waffle iron. So now you have your very own. Congratulations!
With this gift, however, comes responsibility. And it’s really more than just an occasional meal of chocolate chip waffles (any size will do, but I prefer the big chips, there’s a little more body and crunch to them . . . but that is certainly a great place to start! Follow the directions on the package (any batter works well, even those that require just adding water)and don’t get frustrated if the first one off the griddle sticks a little bit . . . it’s called seasoning the griddle and it should be expected. If that doesn’t happen, that’s possible too, but don’t let that first one (if it doesn’t turn out) set the tone for the rest of the meal. I ruined my first few meals (and probably yours as you sat at the dinner table) by getting frustrated during the “seasoning” process and tossing half baked waffles around the kitchen . . . learn from my mistakes.
So much for the waffle iron perspective in this gift . . and now for the dad perspective. There are five things that stand out in my mind about my dad.
First, there was never a doubt in my mind that he loved me . . . even though he didn’t say it as much as “the books” say he probably should have. His actions and his encouragement made it clear to me.
Secondly, I only heard him swear twice in my lifetime . . . my dad had emotions just like everybody, but he didn’t let them control him, he controlled them.
Thirdly, he had Godly principles. I’ll be honest, I didn’t know my dad to have the relationship with Jesus Christ that I’d have wanted him to have, but he sure walked his life in a way much more Christ-like than a number of Christians I know. (I’ve always believed that God was more knowledgeable and understanding of my dad’s relationship with Him than I and had prepared a room for him, just as He has for us.)
Fourthly, my mom was clearly the lady in my dad’s life and he loved her dearly. I don’t recall them ever arguing (although I’m sure they must have disagreed on SOMETHING), but even if they did he always treated her with the utmost respect that only his life-long mate and the mother of his children deserve.
And lastly, my dad loved to laugh . . . not to ridicule or make fun of someone’s weaknesses, but to avoid looking at life as seriously as we tend to want to make it. A good joke, an amusing event, or a goofy story was all he needed to break out in laughter. While he may have had things he worried about now and then I could always tell by the look in his eyes and a slight curl in his lip that everything was going to be OK.
And I guess they are five things that I’ve tried to pass on to you . . . but I’ll leave it up to you to determine if that has happened. Regardless, these are things I encourage you to show your family. So far, it appears to me you’ve been doing that. Keep up the good work! Enjoy your family every minute of every day. They’ll bring you concern and frustration at times, but they’ll bring you boundless joy that is tough to describe and impossible to match. And don’t forget that someday those young ladies in your life will have men of their own who will need to understand the importance of waffles and things.
Enjoy the waffle iron and every time YOU make waffles realize that you’re doing more than just providing a meal, you’re preparing them for life. Be There.