Every now and then, a dad has a ‘click’ moment. Mine happen to have nerdy precursors and undertones, which suits me just fine.
The past three days, I was Cub Scout camping with my youngest son and namesake Evan Michael. Evan’s the one my wife is usually referring to when she says, “this one is just like you”, most often with a furrowed brow and exclaimed at a relatively high volume level.
My click moment came when Evan and I were walking along the dirt road between the Campsite and the dining hall of the Scouting Reservation. If the alphabet measured distance, the campsite was at “Z”, and the dining hall was at “A”. Other scout’s legs were 7’s….Evan’s little legs were “1’s”.
We had a schedule to keep, and like most dads I assumed the role of dutiful time conscious leader. Nudging and “inspiring” from out ahead of Evan to keep him moving and get him to the next station promptly. Before too long I realized that this self imposed motivational system gone wrong had Evan walking 20 yards behind me most of the time. Click.
I slowed down. From a brisk walk. To a slow walk. To a foot barely in front of the other foot, pace. Almost a shuffle. Evan’s stride is an ‘almost a dad shuffle”, when converted accordingly with various universal constants and some parts of the metric system mixed in. Once this clicked, I discovered an uncharted world I’d been missing from out front.
Evan sings and hums when he walks. A pleasant, almost Celtic ‘sing song’ of sorts. It’s a blend of Flo-Rida and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. It’s lilting and soft and has no lyrical rhyme or reason.
Evan will spontaneously lift up his still-but-not-for-long little hand up to mine and put it in the ‘pocket’ of my fingers. I looked around the camp after my click moment. There weren’t too many dads still holding hands with their sons. When you dad shuffle after a click moment, you realize that a small soft hand offered to the pocket of your own is no small gift.
Evan seems loud, but isn’t really. As the smallest sibling, he’s usually kicking and screaming for what’s rightfully his. But when you cull him from the herd and spend time alone with him shuffle walking, he’ll defer to you and elect you spokesperson for the duo. His shouts shrink to wispy whispers when its time to buy a Slush Puppy. He needs dad to speak up for him and appropriate the desired desserts.
Lastly – Evan wants to do what everyone else is doing…can do. When given a 45 minute window of free time to either hike to the top of a small hill to the viewing area, or free-swim at the lake, he vehemently professes his iron-will desire to do both. I think he thinks that a bigger kid – an older first born – could, so he should be able to. Only after calmly discussing that no one could do both (especially me), AND that he’d have an opportunity in a few weeks to come back with me and hike the small hill, he relinquished the former (having saved face) to enjoy the cooler, wetter latter.
My nerdy click moment came from as it usually does, from a prompting of the Holy Spirit. He brought my mind back – like He usually does, to a clip from a movie or a TV show. This time, it was a Star Trek (next generation) clip where the crew lands on a planet where people are living forever. The captain comments to one of the inhabitants how amazing it must be to live, barely aging, through all time. The inhabitant replies that the secret did not lay in the sheer quantity of their time. But rather how they had mastered the eternity of each passing moment. Placing preeminent value on the now. This was living successfully.
My children will know little to anything about what I did to pay the bills around here. They’ll have a near-zero appreciation for the challenges and turbulence behind the day to day of my occupational time line. That’s a hard lesson to learn. A lesson that usually comes with a great cost. But after reading this, I hope more dads have a click moment like mine and realize that success isn’t found pushing those seemingly important boundaries from out front, but stopping and slowly exploring the sing-song slow shuffle little boy boundaries back behind them.
Then maybe more of us will find eternity in the little hand big hand pocket moments. Unspeakable joy lives there. Understanding, and adventure and connection dwell in those sheltered coves of time. Memory seeds drop and fall to a fertile ground there, and live long beyond the bounds of our eulogies.