So my son nearly poked my eye out tonight. We were happily playing Legos, arranging small primary colored cars and rebuilding a Lego house after some younger sister destruction. Michael was holding a rigid white fire engine ladder in his right hand. I suppose he was excited to show me something when he gestured forcibly in my direction. One vertical strut of the Lego ladder hit the inside of the bridge of my nose near my eye-socket. If it wasn’t for that initial contact triggering the closing of my eyelid and the jerking backward of my head, my son may have very well gouged my eye.

After the initial shock and awe had worn off and Michael had spent some time thinking about his actions, Jane, our three-year old, approached me, probably with some prompting from Wifey, and said with much enthusiasm, “Daddy, I won’t ever ever poke your eyeballs out.”

“That’s nice, honey. I want to keep them too.”

Later that night as I was putting Michael to bed and rubbing his back, we talked about what happened in more detail.

“You’re almost five years old now, Michael. Aren’t you?

“Un hunh.”

“Are you getting really strong?”

“Yes.”

“How strong are you?”

“I’m super strong.”

“That’s right buddy, and are you stronger than some of the other kids in your class?”

“Oh, yeah.”

“When you play around with other kids you need to be careful. You don’t want to hurt anyone. How should you play with them?”

“Umm… with soft hands, Daddy?”

“That’s good, Michael. Play gently especially with toys that aren’t soft.”

There’s this awesome line from the movie “Parenthood” with Steve Martin from the late 80s. Grandma, played by the late Helen Shaw, comes wandering into the room while Gill, played by Martin, is bemoaning the craziness of family life. Grandma starts to ramble about rollercoasters… “It was just so interesting to me that a ride could make me so frightened, so scared, so sick, so excited, and so thrilled all together! Some didn’t like it. They went on the merry-go-round. That just goes around. Nothing. I like the roller coaster. You get more out of it.”

Never has a statement been made that encapsulates family life so well. Things have been a little hectic for our little family the past few weeks, not just the eye-gouging, but professional demands, perpetual rotating sickness, and just the logical outgrowth of cramming way too much into our agendas. The highs have been amazing and the lows have been debilitating and worthy of trips to Barton.

There have also been some significant work challenges for me. Up until recently, our children have been the receivers of care distribution in our house. I failed to consider that caregiving is a two-way street. Sometimes, I’m the one that needs the affection and support that our children offer. This past week I had a particularly hostile work-related encounter involving a client who needed to get some venomous thoughts off his chest.

When I finally got home, Jane’s uncluttered affection was exactly what I needed to find my center again.

“Can you read me a story, Daddy?” Jane brings three books she already knows by heart over to me on the couch.

“I’d love to. Will you turn the pages?”

“Okay Daddy.” She says as she snuggles up against my side.

And just like that, it all washes away. The misguided vitriol of my client pales in comparison to the purity of affection expressed by my daughter in the simple act of sharing a story.

Unconditional love is an amazing thing. It provides a base from which so much is possible.

Things are much better with my client now too. Passions have cooled.

I can’t help but wonder though if I would have been able to handle the situation with the grace and success that I did without having a foundation of strength provided by my children… probably not.

Wow, I love the rollercoaster and I’m glad that I still have my eyeballs to see the views before the drop.

 

Rollercoaster Do:

  1. Guard your eyeballs and other vital organs.
  2. Seek out those hugs and kisses from kiddos when you need to.
  3. Throw your hands in the air and enjoy the ride.

 

Rollercoaster Don’t:

  1. Forget that there will be lots of ups and downs in parenting.
  2. Take yourself too seriously.
  3. Allow work to be a more powerful influence than family.