“Dad? Question.”

This is a phrase I hear, at least a half dozen times a day, right before one of my kids asks me about something on their mind.

We joke about it because when it comes out of my 8 year olds’ mouth, it sounds so adult. He’s a real pontificator.

My daughter says it, too. Its just the way they lean into a conversation.

We’re not totally sure where they picked it up, but we love it.

Conversation Surfing

Last summer, we chose to take a 3-year hiatus from the 9-to-5 grind in order to travel the world with our kids.

Its been, easily, one of the most profound experiences of our lives. Not to mention a riot of fun.

The time we’ve spent together on the road – literally 24/7 for the first 6 months – has provided immense opportunity to engage in every sort of learning and dialogue with our kids.

Day after day (after day), we hiked in 40+ National Parks.

The scenery, alone, blew our minds. The facts and figures we learned transformed our consciousness.

But it was the time talking together with our kids which proved most profound.

Conversation Surfing in City of Rocks National Reserve in Southern Idaho

Conversation Surfing in City of Rocks National Reserve in Southern Idaho

We’d have conversations that lasted for hours on the trail.

Many days, I’d listen, seemingly endlessly (he literally never stops), to my son tell me the particulars of the most recent video game he was playing.

Or, we’d share language lessons, with Momma teaching us Slovak in preparation for our move to Europe.

A Game of Knowns

One of my daughters favorite conversations (still today) is “childhood stories.” This is what she calls my telling stories from my own childhood. She loves it.

At times, I feel like she’s looking for specific information, as a reference point for her own experience. Other times, she clearly just wants to hear me riff on pulpy subjects, like times I sustained injuries, or got into trouble.

“Childhood stories” has evolved into a game of exchange, where she gives me a queue-word to jog my memory. Something specific she wants to hear about, or something random. Its totally up to her.

Whatever word or phrase she chooses is bound to trigger a memory in my mind that I can share with her.

Like Freudian word-association.

A father walks and talks with his daughter in Mount Rainier National Park

Childhood stories in Mount Rainier National Park

Sometimes there’s no logical correlation between the word she gives me, and whatever memories come up. Other times, there’s a direct correlation.

The good news is, she doesn’t never bores of this interplay. If she’s looking for something specific, we usually get close enough to it within a couple of rounds to satisfy her inquiry.

The really good news is, the game never ends. It just goes on pause for while. We always come back to it.   

A Quick Confession

Here’s a quick disclaimer that I want to put out there, before you try and to hang a Dad-of-the-Year award around my neck.

My propensity to engage in quality conversation with my kids has developed fairly recently, only in the past few years.

At one time, I was conversationally transactional with my children, which is a nice way of saying, I was big on telling, and short on listening.

Sometimes, I was just plain short.

It pains me to admit, I could anger too easily, punish too quickly. My kids didn’t deserve such reactions. Instead, they needed responses.

But oftentimes, right or wrong (definitely wrong), reacting was (apparently) all I was capable of.

A father and his kids explore the slot canyons of southeast Utah

Sharing and listening take practice. Even with a captive audience.

This is nothing I’m proud of. In fact, I’d be ashamed of it except that, I realize its part of a universal arc all parents go through.

Some arcs are bigger than others, to be sure. I convey my experience for transparency.

We believe its important to share from the entire spectrum of our experience. Not just the good stuff. (#toomanybloggersflossin)


Because our mission is to inspire you to embrace your own journey-to-the-heart.

If we put ourselves out there as parents-of-the-year who do nothing but good and positive, then A) we’re not being truthful, and B) we miss connecting with our audience in a fundamental way.

The truth is that we struggle as parents. A lot. But we’re getting better. And that’s the point.

A family overlooks the cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde National Park in southwest Colorado.

Inquiring minds want to know. Mesa Verde National Park in southwest Colorado.

“Dad? Question…” ~ A Few of My Favorite Things

So, when I hear this phrase (several times a day), it makes me feel really great.

The questions that follow are sometimes mundane, sometimes profound. Either way, I just love the setup and the implications. Here’s why:

> 1. Its kind. This phrase, at least how our kids express it, demonstrates clearly that they’re capable of being polite. Of course, they’re not always polite – to us, or to each other – but they’re capable of it. #win

> 2 . It demonstrates they understand (if unconsciously) the power of conversational exchange. They’re setting it up. Clearing a space for it. “Dad?” (Have I got your attention?) “Question.” (Let’s rumble with our ideas/Let’s learn something new/Let’s explore consciousness together)

> 3. They’re willing to ask me for information. Despite my shortcomings, I’m firmly established in my kids’ lives as a source for quality information.

> 4. They trust me as a soundboard. While my kids value me as a source of information, I believe its my listening they value most. True conversation is a dialogue, which can be difficult. Its to tell, tell, tell. You want answers? I got ‘em for days. Opinions? I’m your man. But attentive and active listening? That’s where the rubber meets the road. #workinprogress.

Father and Son Rafting the Clark Fork River Near Missoula Montana

Rafting the Clark Fork River Near Missoula Montana

Conversation Serving

Wherever you are in your relationships, don’t underestimate the power of conversation to serve you, as individuals and as a unit.

True conversation means listening at least as much as you speak. It means sharing honestly, and listening actively.

If you have room for improvement in your relationships (we all do), or even if you’re a mess (some of us have been), give yourself permission to have a conversation.

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