My Children Teach Me How to Live

14 Jul

Feeding Birds

Earlier this month my daughter, pictured above, wanted to catch a rabbit with her bare hands. I mean, she really wanted to catch a rabbit and completely believed it could happen. I saw the disappointment (and maybe a tear or two) when we left her uncle’s sprawling, rabbit-filled property.

Lately she’s been standing in the driveway with bird seed in her outstretched hand waiting for a feathered friend to land on her arm. Last night I came outside and found her on her back. There was no wry smile on her face saying “I’m just being silly, daddy.” She wasn’t trying to entertain us. She believed. This makes me want to laugh and cry at the same time. The innocence, the creativity, the thought of my daughters growing up, the cuteness, the weirdness, the reach for the wild, natural world.

I’m having intense emotions over all of it this morning. I can’t stop looking at these photos. I just want to hug her and say anything’s possible. I want to hold her and tell her to never stop trying to catch the rabbit.

Feeding Birds - Full Body

Because amazing children grow up to be jaded adults who stop running after rabbits and waiting for birds to land in our hands.

Today I will grasp seed and lie beside my daughter. I will pretend to expect something amazing to happen. She’ll look over at my face and will see nothing but genuine excitement and enthusiasm. Yes, I pride myself on my natural ability to appear ignorant and innocent around them. I let them figure things out and I’m always happy to thank them for helping me understand how the world works.

Can you imagine a father saying “Get up you little weirdo; a bird will never land in your hand” or “Give up, you’ll never catch a rabbit with your hands; you have to shoot them.”

Last night we were walking the dogs when Chloe yelled “Skunk!” And there, on our left, fifteen feet away, were four skunks, a mother and three babies. Then, chaos. The dogs went wild. The girls were in a state of agitated wonder. The sight of those identical fuzzy tails, all up and on alert, bundled with the reaction of the girls, was amazing. I love those moments.

But just think of all the experiences we give up because we’re unavailable. The moments that are not because we’re on Facebook or mindlessly poking around online. Or we’re watching “reality” TV. Just as likely, we’re working to pay for that big house with all that stuff in it. Like that’s more important.

The other night I made the girls go on a walk with me. They groaned. I said “Come on, it’ll be an adventure!” We ended up at Chloe’s old school, Ainsley’s new. We found a beat up hockey puck and took turns rolling it down the hilly playground asphalt. We ran. We jumped. We swung. We laughed. What if I had stayed on the computer that night instead of urging them out into the neighborhood? What if I was at work, doing some mindless, meaningless task for some stupid corporation?

I’ll try not to think about the experiences I’ve cheated us from in the past. What’s done is done.

I’ll never have this fatherhood thing figured out. One lifetime isn’t enough. But on some days I think I have a solid plan on how to move forward.

Today, I think we’ll go on another walk and see what wild, unexpected adventures we get into.

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