Bella and I got a late start on our walk. Usually we had the streets to ourselves but I noticed there was a buzz of activity about. Of course, I remembered, it was the beginning of the school year and kids and parents were walking to the elementary schools close by. Across the street from us heading in the same direction at the same pace was a girl about six years old with her hand firmly clasped in her dad’s. They were walking at a brisk pace and she was breathlessly telling her dad about the first day of class the day before. In her diminutive, excited voice she described what her teacher had worn that day, what she said about her family and recited the rules of the classroom. The dad walked hurriedly and kept looking at his watch.“Daddy, are you going to be late for work?” she asked struggling to keep up with her short legs. “Uh, no, honey,” he said nervously, obviously distracted. She went on and on excited about her new, great adventure.
I wanted to tell that Dad to slow down and take time with his daughter. I wanted to tell him that these moments are going to mean a lot to him when he gets older because they don't last long. There's a window with children that usually lasts for 10 or 11 years. After that time your child won't want to hold your hand or talk to you much anymore. Throw in that dreaded term “social media” and all the electronic devices clamoring for your child’s attention and daddy time is an endangered phenomenon. I call that period going from “hero to zero” and it happens quickly. A good friend on the block who raised three terrific daughters told me once that a child’s social and moral codes are set by the fifth grade. That doesn’t leave much time for dear old dad to make an impact.
I wanted to tell him that he's going to need and remember these moments when the time comes when she provides challenges at home. There will be conflicts as she won’t want to listen to her father but deep down knows she should. If they have a habit of talking with each other they might just keep the line of communication open. I wanted to tell him that these moments are going to mean a lot to his daughter as she grows up and faces the challenges she's going to meet along the way and he won’t be there holding her hand. A thousand points of wisdom delivered through the warm connection with the first man of her life.
I wanted to tell him that nothing he could achieve at work that day or any other would ever be as precious as this moment that he, literally, held in his hand.