This morning, my wife slept in (she had the night shift, and there are sick kids), thus I drew the early shift which includes breakfast and getting the kids out the door to school. After hunting for several minutes for the 5-year-old’s shoes (out by the trampoline, which I really ought to have been smart enough to think of), and with the ride to school honking in the driveway, I bent down to tie up the laces and get him out the door.
And my sweet child looks at me and says, “you can do it, Dad.”
For me, tying shoes is a last-century skill. Been doing it for roughly 40 years (although at 35 I got tired of tying grannies and retaught myself to tie square bows instead). Not a new thing and not something I think of as difficult.
But Thanner is 5. Tying shoes is a wondrous thing, not at all certain of success on every attempt. For him, it’s a thing that needs a boost. So he encouraged me.
For an instant, because I am not nearly as nice a fellow as I like to think, I wanted to say, “I don’t need cheering on, here.” I was a little annoyed, because the morning rush was on in full and I was deeply cognizant of my lack of skill in handling it. Finally we had reached something I knew I was going to be able to do, and here’s this kid acting like I need help.
Fortunately, I am not a total moron. I bit that reply back, then realized that I did need encouragement. I needed it, yes, in toto, for all the things I’m doing today, many of which are not excessively pleasant. I needed it in the cosmic sense that everyone needs to hear he can do it from time to time.
But I realized something else then, too, and that was that for that one second, that task became better. I don’t think I tied a better knot than I otherwise would have, but I know that I enjoyed the tying more than I would have expected. I’d have tossed that off without a single thought, but then my dear son said, “you can do it, Dad.”
And I could, and the doing could mean something to me. I’ve been thinking about that, before and since. There’s something important going on here.