“It is one thing to show your child the way, and a harder thing to then stand out of it.” -Robert Brault
It was a hot day in the middle of the summer and I was tired. I know it isn’t uncommon to be hot or tired on a normal summer day, but this wasn’t a normal summer day. There is “normal summer hot and tired”….and then there is…”feet are numb, clothes are covered in ketchup, ice cream, dirt, kettle corn crumbs, and sweat…been walking around with 10,000 other people…amusement park hot and tired”. You know what I’m talking about right? After riding rides, eating “food”(stuff you can feel giving you an insulin spike, an artery clog, and an extra roll of fat…all at the same time), watching shows, and buying “souvenirs”(stuff you know will end up in the corner of your kid’s room and eventually on a yard sale table with a $1 sticker on it), everyone(including you) walks around with that blank, eyes unfocused, mouth half-open, zombie daze. That was the scene one day this past summer as I walked hand in hand with my 7-year-old son Aleck at Dollywood. We were in the game area looking for the girls. The park was to close in about an hour so a lot of the other drooling, sweaty, dirty zombies…I mean people… had left to make the march to their cars. Aleck and I weren’t having much luck finding Amy, Ella, and Emma Grace when he spotted a game with a stuffed Spiderman as a prize. He pointed to Spiderman and looked up at me. “That’s cool”, I said continuing to scan and look for the girls. He didn’t say anything else. I looked back down at him and asked him if he wanted to play. His eyes lit up as if the real Spiderman had asked him for help in fighting crime. We walked over and asked the young worker if we could still play. “Sure. Three throws for $5 . Two footballs through the hole wins the prize”, he said. I paid the money and the worker handed us three footballs. Aleck told me to throw first. I threw it straight through the hole. Aleck threw the next two and missed. I looked around and saw people had stopped to watch us. There were three elderly ladies eating ice cream sitting on a bench behind us. A couple had stopped to adjust their baby in his/her stroller and were watching us. Another father and son sat on a bench with a middle-aged couple standing next to them. I looked at Aleck who had his chin tucked and eyes fixed on the ground. I looked at the young man working and then at the stuffed Spiderman. “He wants the Spiderman.” the worker said. I nodded yes. “Two more throws for two more dollars. Make one and win the prize.” he said. Aleck looked up and smiled. I paid the man. He gave Aleck two footballs. Aleck handed one of the footballs to me and told me to throw first. I thought to myself how I was about to be my son’s hero. I put my fingers on the laces and threw the ball in a perfect spiral…and it came bouncing back at my face like a flying wounded duck. I heard a loud “Awwwwww”. I looked at Aleck as he took a deep breath. I expected him to toss me the next ball. Instead, he rolled up his sleeves, took another deep breath, and whispered ” I can do this.” And this is important : I almost told him to stop. I was so close to telling him to hand me the ball if he wanted the Spiderman. But I didn’t. I have no idea why the words didn’t leave my heart and mouth, but I thank God they weren’t spoken. Aleck gripped the football, closed his eyes for two seconds, opened them, and threw the ball straight through the hole. The young worker’s eyes opened wide as if he had seen a ghost and he started to laugh. I heard a loud “Yaaay!!!” and clapping behind us. Aleck high-fived me and jumped up and down before gripping me in a bear hug. The worker handed Aleck Spiderman and shook his hand. We walked through the congratulating crowd. “We have to find Mom and tell her.” Aleck said. “Aleck that was so awesome. Bro, you made three old women put their ice cream down to clap for you…that’s big! I’m so proud of you.” I said. “I know Dad. I know.” Aleck answered.
“What you must accept as a parent is that you cannot always be there for your child without sometimes ruining everything.” – Robert Brault
It was one of the perfect days of my life. Please know that it happened exactly the way I wrote it. I made a promise to be truthful, genuine, and transparent when I started this blog. The words you read in my posts are true and from my heart. Having said that, do you realize how close I came to ruining that perfect day? I came within a second of changing that day. I was so concerned about being a hero to my son, I almost took away the chance for him to be a hero. That is the lesson my friends : Lighten up. Take a breather as parents. We don’t have to be heroes. It isn’t our job to keep our children away from life’s mistakes. It isn’t our job to protect them from the consequences of bad decisions. It isn’t our job to shield them from things in life that are not fair…things that hurt their feelings…things that are hard. It is a great disservice to never let them feel struggle, taste defeat, or hear honest criticism. It isn’t our job to protect them from failure. And it is wrong to try to make our children into what we did not become. This quote says it best: “Do not ask that your kids live up to your expectations. Let your kids be who they are, and your expectations will be in breathless pursuit.”-Robert Brault
IT IS OUR JOB to PREPARE them for life’s struggles, mistakes, and failures. IT IS OUR JOB to keep them SAFE. IT IS OUR JOB to blanket them with LOVE. If we teach the value of honesty, grace, integrity, hard work, love, faith, kindness, compassion, forgiveness, empathy, and responsibility…we will be fine…and our children will be fine. We need to treat them now like the people we think they have the potential of becoming. If we do our best to instill the values needed to cope with the things our children will face in this world, we’ve accomplished something great. We cannot do everything for them though or we will surely take away their chance to be great. I learned an important lesson one hot summer day at Dollywood : Be quiet and let them throw the ball. And however the throw turns out…make or miss…a simple hug, kiss, “I love you”, smile, nod, “It’s OK”, and/or high five…is perfect…perfect. And with that… Mom…Dad…you’ve done your job. 🙂