I hope there never comes a day when I am not in awe of my children. I can honestly say that there hasn’t been one yet. Just when I think I have them figured out, they do or say something that takes me by surprise. Just recently, my son taught me a very valuable lesson.
Most days I have the good fortune of getting to pick my son up from daycare. He makes me feel like a hero each and every time I drive up. The smile. The joy at seeing his Daddy. The fact that he still runs into my arms is wonderful. Oftentimes, he is outside playing when I arrive so I am able to pick up his belongings from his cubby before he sees me.
A couple of weeks ago when I went to empty his cubby I noticed there was something in it that wasn’t there when I had dropped him off. In his cubby was a curly straw with a pack of Kool-Aid and a note wishing my son a happy summer. The parent of one his classmates had done this for all of the kids. What a thoughtful gesture.
Since I am always in a hurry, I figured I would just get his lunchbox and would get the straw another day. No big deal. Well, when I went to get my son he was more excited than usual. He couldn’t wait to show me what was in his cubby. Normally we go straight to the car, but he was so excited we had no choice but to stop by his cubby before leaving.
I am certain by now you know what it is he wanted to show me. His curly straw. It was as if he had never seen one before. His excitement was contagious. Come to think of it, I use to love drinking using those straws when I was a kid. And I was going to leave it there for another day!
My son reminded me how important it is to pay attention to what is important to him because it may not be what I would always expect. Or, worse yet, I may have forgotten the things that use to excite me as a child. This brief little lapse in judgment should have been enough to alert me to what is important to my four-year old son. But this story is not over yet.
My son’s daycare is a wonderful place that has allowed he and my daughter to grow and flourish in ways I never could have imagined. They never watch tv and they keep the kids very active. This year they were fortunate enough to attend a local dance studio each week and learn some cool moves. He would always tell me about it when he got home, but I didn’t think it was that big a deal to him.
So when I heard that his daycare was going to be performing in the recital, I hadn’t really planned on him going. I didn’t really think it meant that much to him, and to be quite honest I didn’t really want to sit for hours to watch my son dance for three minutes. We figured we could go out to eat like any other Saturday night and all would be well.
But when I picked him up the Friday before the recital was to take place, something unexpected happened. Something that I would have never predicted. My son ran up to me and within seconds I knew that my plans for Saturday had to change.
“Daddy, I can’t wait for tomorrow night!”
“We get to dance up on the stage at the high school!”
“I will be up there with all of my friends!”
Cue the background music for the father-of-the-year-award ceremony. I had no idea it meant this much to him. There was no way we were going to miss this event now. And it is a good thing we didn’t, because the three minutes my son was dancing on stage with his friends were three of the best minutes of my life. It was amazing. The sheer joy those kids showed up on stage that night was something that we adults need to remember and relearn.
My wife, my mother and I laughed until we cried. I think my wife did actually laugh so hard she cried. I wish you could have been there. Hopefully you can learn from my two near blunders. I am so grateful to have a son who can teach me how to appreciate the little things and how to find joy where I had somehow forgotten it resided.
Take notice of what matters to your children, to your students, to your teachers. Or better yet, ask them! Oftentimes we can be completely unaware of what brings joy to those that we love. Sometimes we are so busy trying to figure out how to make others happy that we forget that the best option may be to simply let them tell us how.
Photo taken by Jon Harper
My son on the red carpet before the recital.