Wednesday, October 6, 2010
It's a postcard-perfect October afternoon, and I am outside enjoying it with my young son. Today, we are sitting together beneath a river birch tree enjoying a cool fall breeze. We make motor noises in stereo as we plow the dirt with our wooden toy tractors.
There are no repetitious attempts on my part to capture a perfect Facebook photo today. I am seizing the deeper moment, slowing down and cherishing time with my child. The simple act of playing in the dirt with trucks and tractors gives me a feeling of being connected with him across time.
Not quite 2 years old, his primary means of communication consist of pointing, laughing, crying and an assortment of precious, inquisitive gestures. He watches as I take a small stick and pick up a paper-thin piece of birch bark from the ground by poking the stick through it. Immediately, he finds his own stick and copies my actions, resulting in oodles of pleasure-induced laughter.
I am reminded that everything I do and say in his presence is stored in his growing "mimic register." What a responsibility all of us share in living our lives as good examples for all the young, impressionable minds around us, whether our children or not. They are the future, and I wonder what the defining moments of their generation will be. I also wonder how well we, as the generation they started out mimicking, will have done in our examples of love, tolerance, compassion and our ability to learn from mistakes.
Children notice everything, from how much you smile, to how you treat the neighbor's dog when he visits your yard. My wife was sick for an extended period of time, and our son even started pretending to be nauseated. Kids miss nothing and, I'm told, tell everything.
I am fortunate to have two loving parents who will celebrate their 57th anniversary next month. The month after will be my in-law's 49th. My wife and I are truly blessed with parents who loved not only each other but their children as well.
I worry about kids who are exposed to domestic violence. I would plead with any parent or guardian to get out of an abusive relationship. Any abusive relationship—whether physically abusive, sexually abusive, verbally abusive or emotionally abusive—can be detrimental to the kids involved.
Years ago, I was attending a seminar with many group exercises. At one point we were asked to describe a defining moment in our past when an elder set a truly positive and lasting example in our life. One young man stood up and bravely told the story of the day he came out to his parents. He explained how he had been very nervous about sharing this news of his sexual orientation with them because of the rejection that he feared would result. Tears came to his eyes and to the eyes of all listening as he told us that his parents loved him unconditionally, and his fears of abandonment had not been realized.
Not all grown-up provide such an example of love. Some give little thought to the safety of their own life, let alone someone else's.
There was a little girl in Morton, not quite 5 years old, who was playing outside and noticed a group of kids across the street. She waited in the driveway before attempting to cross because of an oncoming car. The car's driver, later found to be under the influence of alcohol, saw the group of kids on one side and, in his over-compensating swerve to miss them, hit the little brown-eyed girl who was waiting in her driveway. In an instant, this driver, who didn't bother to stop at the scene, had affected this young child's life forever.
The little girl required many bone-reconstructive surgeries. She was in a body cast for about a year, after which she had to learn to walk all over again. Being only 5, she will face future hip replacements as she grows up. She was even told that she would never have children of her own.
Thirty-six years have passed since the little brown-eyed girl was hit by that car, and now, God willing, she is only days away from welcoming a little girl into the world. She is my wife of 12 years, and we cherish every moment with our young son, and we look forward to the birth of our daughter.
I make a lot of mistakes as a parent. I do hope, however, that I will never make the mistake of forgetting just how precious a child's life really is. I also hope that I never lose sight of my responsibility to offer positive content for the mimic registers of all children with whom I come in contact.
Wonderful stories, Scott. I did not know the details of Leann's acciden and find your description very moving. Your writing gets better and better. Diana, your neighbor lady