My almost 2 year old daughter had never been to this particular playground before. New sights, sounds and smells ignited her senses. Geese splashed about in the pond. In the opposite direction, ocean waves crashed along the shoreline. Full of confidence she hastily proceeded down the steps of the playground apparatus only to lose her footing. She tumbled, hit her chin on the handrail and landed on her back with a soft sounding thump thanks to her low center of gravity. Stunned and frightened more than actually hurt, she took a moment to process what happened. She then began to cry as she darted her eyes around desperately searching for me to rescue her. Before she could barely complete the word “Daddy” I had scooped her up into my arms and took her to a nearby bench to check out the actual damage. With the exception of an insignificant dime sized abrasion, my little girl was unscathed. Like a koala bear, she clung tightly to me as she dealt with her latest traumatic event. As I comforted her, my mind began to drift. I imagined my daughter in the future. I’m not sure I liked what I saw.
Immersed in a surreal montage, I envisioned my daughter at her first dance in high school, graduating from college, accepting an award for best musician, and giving her away at her wedding. Arguably all wonderful images to behold yet painfully bittersweet for a father to witness. My daughter had grown up and my role in her life as Dad and protector had for all intensive purposes ended. I abruptly awakened from my daydream when my daughter pulled on my ear and softly demanded “I want cheerios Daddy.” I honored her request and we snacked on the bench. She must have realized her Daddy was lost in thought as I watched her eating because she sort of giggled and made a face at me in such a way as to imitate what I do when I try to get her to laugh. It’s amazing how in tune our children really are to our feelings. They may not grasp the full nuance of human emotion at an early age but without question they’re aware of changes in mood.
Later in the afternoon as she napped I found myself flipping through her photos. “How could 2 years fly by so rapidly?” i asked aloud. My son, now almost 4, has grown at a dizzying pace as well. Contemplating 15 to 25 years into the future didn’t seem so outlandish to me. I can still vividly recall my twenties. Arguably, that time period represents the enduring mental image of oneself although one continues to age chronologically. Kids have a way of reminding us of our true selves including our finite mortality.
Living in the 21st century certainly doesn’t help matters either. The deluge of distraction in the information age tends to limit our time rather than provide us with the promise of freedom. The more devices we own, the more tethered we become to the point of addiction. I wonder what percentage of family time has been encroached upon by the advent of interactive technology as well as “social” media. Facebook and Twitter continue to carve away at actual true human contact. I also wonder how many parents realize the detrimental affects their children suffer due to overindulgent engagement in social media outlets. Keeping some semblance of balance requires a regimented mind set. In my opinion, it also requires hugs. A child’s request to a parent for a hug can loosen even the most powerful vise like grip of technological addiction.
I’ve cherished the time spent with my family each year as we collectively travel around the Sun. Moving forward I hope to slow down the pace of my family’s journey. A chance for my wife and I to truly marvel at our children’s development. Laugh as they discover the world anew with all of its idiosyncrasies. And most importantly, pursue quantity as well as quality time. I’m not ready for the future. I am ready for today.
100 years by Five for Fighting