There are times during this entire fatherhood journey where I can simply take a breath, reflect and experience the world through the lens of my three year old’s eyes.
The moments are sometimes few as we all inevitably fall into the regular rat race of life – trying to make sure we’re taking care of ourselves to try and ensure the livelihood of our families, our homes and, especially the futures of our children. I am as guilty of this as anyone, if not more so.
And even though I spent the majority of my Sunday working around the house – general homeowner things that tend to need attention – it’s small moments that my daughter experienced this week when I just want to hug her, kiss the top of her head and be still in the world during with her and let everything else pass by.
Every morning that I drive her to daycare, we usually cover three topics. It’s easy since the drive is no more than five minutes.
1) What are you going to do at school today?
I’m going to listen to my teachers.
Note: listening is not one of my daughter’s best attributes.
2) How are you going to play with your friends?
Nice and gentle, she says as she softly rubs her own face.
Note: sometimes my child channels her inner Ronda Rousey.
3) How are you going to act?
Like a leader.
3a) And what does that mean?
To do the right thing.
Note: This one is still a work in progress. We’re trying to get her to think this way although the overall concept probably escapes her grasp. She’s getting there, but it’s something I want to institute now.
It was during our morning drive routine when she didn’t immediately answer one of these typical queries. She saw a man walking on the sidewalk.
He was homeless. A stereotypical vagrant of a homeless person you may expect to be cast in a movie if they needed what we all think a homeless person should look like. Terribly unkempt hair, ratty beard, holes in his filthy clothes. Someone who had taken several wrong turns in life, but in one way or another was still gutting it out.
My daughter saw him, and his yellow backpack with a foam roller on it and her focus on our questions went askew.
Daddy, that man is going to the library for a sleepover.
I did a double take and then lobbed back a simple Oh, yeah? at her, struck by the fact that my three-year-old has yet to tell the difference of a homeless person and a person going to a sleepover. She saw the backpack, had just finished watching her morning PBS shows and somehow concluded that this person was sleeping over at the library.
How we view the world is obviously jaded and probably more negative than it should be based on our own experiences and the influences we have: stories, news reports, experiences of others and so on.
Yet, my daughter just saw a human being. A man walking with a backpack and assumed the best. He was simply going to the library, to learn and read, and meet his friends, and then sleep there.
For a moment I wished she was right. And in that moment I wanted to crawl into that space with her and believe it too.