A couple of years ago, I encountered the power of this truth during a vacation in Florida. I had gone to the hotel pool to swim with Josie. A bunch of other kids were already in the pool, including a girl, about Josie’s age, who was quite aggressive in seeking my attention. By this I mean that she began climbing all over me.
After a few minutes, I looked around for Josie and saw that she was glaring at me from the edge of the pool. I hurried over to play with her. But she was teary-eyed with rage. When I tried to apologize, Josie walked away. Pretty soon, everyone at the pool was watching this sad drama unfold.
Dad pleading for forgiveness and daughter yelling, “Get away from me!”
Soon after, it dawned on me why she was so mad. The point of our excursion to the pool was to get some one-on-one time, a rare commodity with three kids. By playing with this other girl, I’d betrayed her, and done so publicly. She was returning the favor.
Before long, Josie had left the pool area altogether.
I had no idea what to do. I called my wife, who was back in the room. She had no idea what to do either. And then, suddenly, I checked my watch. It was 2:45 p.m., the heart of popcorn o’clock. I dashed to the front desk of the hotel, explained the situation to the woman there as best as I could, and asked if it might be possible for her to pop up some microwave popcorn.
My desperation must have registered, because she popped two bags and poured the popcorn into a fancy pink bowl (actually, it was a giant flower vase), and gave me another half-dozen bags of microwave popcorn, just to make sure.
My wife called to deliver some intel: Josie had retreated to our room. I rushed over with the vase held before me like an offering.
It was the smell of popcorn that brought my daughter out of hiding, and that allowed me to look her in the eye and apologize for betraying her.
I suppose from a certain angle this might register as a case of snack-related bribery. But what was happening in that room felt to me much more like a genuine reconciliation.
Josie needed something more than words—a deeper proof of my devotion, a reminder that the love that nourishes us doesn’t just reside in ardent apologies or heart-to-heart talks or even hugs. Sometimes, it takes a double batch of buttered popcorn, shared with your dad, on a hotel bed.