Some days, it seems as though the clouds can’t get any darker.
It seems as though everything we try, everything we pour our time and love into – it’s all for nothing. It truly seems hopeless once in a while.
I’ve seen that a collection of these days serves a dark purpose in my life – it has made me more cynical, less thankful and more hardened to the plight of others. I just seemed to care less after a while.
I might be the only one who experiences this, but I just seem to be less me, and more a person I don’t necessarily want to be when I look in the mirror. Thankfully, I have four people in my life that have the ability to rattle my cage, to give me a figurative slap in the face and to take that hardened heart and melt it in one instant.
Without my wife and my babies, I often wonder what it would take to soften my heart some days. I’m grateful I don’t have to wonder long, because on the darker days, they are invariably there for me – whether they realize it or not.
Some moments come to mind.
Abigail, my 8 year-old daughter, is growing up. Although she’s our oldest, she’s possibly our most emotionally dependent kid. She needs attention and she needs affirmation. And her confidence isn’t always where it needs to be. It is Abigail that most reminds me that these lives that have been entrusted to us as parents are truly fragile at times.
Dentist visits are truly horrific with her. I always want to bring an extra personal cheque for the dentist and tip her a couple of hundred bucks, because of the incredible patience and dedication she exhibits – EVERY SINGLE TIME. Abigail has this ability to draw people into her problems, and screaming and writhing on the dentist’s chair is one of those times. She’ll end up being surrounded by people, who out of a sense of duty to help the poor dentist, or simply morbid curiosity about the alien baby howling there, will gather around and get involved. It’s ridiculous. Yet, as painful as it is for the rest of us, I realize that deep down, a simple fact remains. Abigail is filled with a real, dark fear in these moments. And through this insanity, there is a moment that reaches out and grabs every heart string I ever knew I had. It starts when you, as a parent, speak to the child – reassuring her that you’re there, that everything will be fine, there will be a little poke of the needle, but it’s necessary to help protect her teeth in the future, and on and on. And you see her dark eyes, brimming over with tears, and filled with abject horror. And those eyes lock with yours. There are dental assistants sitting on her arms to keep her still, so the only way she can reach out to you is with her eyes, and they are screaming to you (because her mouth is full of dental appliances and she can’t speak) “Daddy! Daddy! Help me! Don’t let this happen to me! I am so scared, Daddy!” And then, as you look at your suffering baby with a love that can transcend all the screaming and protesting, and you realize that the only thing that is going to get her through this is because you’re there and she trusts only you in this maelstrom of emotion and pain, you see that her eyes change every so slightly. Her eyes say “Whatever happens here, Daddy, I trust you’ll protect me and I’ll do this. I know you wouldn’t let anything bad happen to me.” That, my friends, is a heart = melted moment.
Amalie is our middle child – a gorgeous 4 year-old girl, who is one of the most thoughtful people I’ve ever met. I’ve always known that I can learn a lifetime worth of goodness from this child, because she was born with the innate ability to give of herself to those around her. It might seem trivial, but whenever she’s at one of her grandma’s places and is offered a candy or a chocolate, she will simply not accept it unless she can also have one for her sister and her brother. I hope she stays that way for the rest of her days.
Amalie needs touch. She doesn’t need to be held constantly, but human touch means the world to her, even if it’s momentary. And that makes her a hugger. I won’t ever leave the house, even if it’s just a drive to the grocery store, without hugging and kissing my family. I’ve heard too many stories where a person leaves the house, intending to return in minutes, and never makes it home. If my time here ends earlier than I want it to, I want to be sure in that second that my family knows I loved them until my last breath.
To fulfill her part in our routine, Amalie always comes running into my arms and wants to be picked up and held. That alone is enough to melt my heart every single time. But there are anomalies that make it even more so. Amalie loves her sleep, and she’s not easily shaken out of it. Yet, on mornings when she isn’t up yet, and she hears me leaving the house and saying my good-byes (even though I’ve already been to her room and kissed her good-bye while she was sleeping), she will drowsily call to me. “Daddy? Please don’t go. I need to jump to you!” And she will groggily make her way down the hallway to the stairs. She will carefully stand on the second one from the top, she will wait for me to hold my arms out and count 1……2……3 and she will trust her Daddy and jump down the last 7 steps into my arms. And she will throw her arms around my neck, hold me as tight as she can, then pull away and plant a big kiss on me. And she will tell me, as she smiles sleepily, to have a good day and that she will miss me. And without being asked, she will assure me that she will be a good girl for her mommy. Heart = melted. Every time.
Andon is my fellow testosterone vessel, my only manly companion in this sea of estrogen I call my family. My son is 1 year and 5 months old. He’s taking his sweet time learning to speak, but lately we realize that he is trying so very hard. If you listen carefully, you’ll note that he is speaking, and he is making real words. They’re just in Dothraki, and need to be translated carefully.
I always have a little special time with Andon (as I did with the other two when they were smaller) in the morning. I think my wife deserves every moment of sleep she can get, and so I always wake up the baby, change their bum, and make them breakfast. I usually sit Andon down by the window in the kitchen – he loves sitting on his little rug with his bowl of food and his sippy-cup, looking out at the world while he happily munches away. I will wrap my arms around him there, kiss him and tell him good-bye and he waves and holds on, and then quickly returns to his all-important breakfast.
The other day I was leaving for work, had said my good-bye to him, and went to the back door to get my coat and shoes on. I heard the proverbial pitter-patter of tiny feet, turned around and saw my son toddling his way to me as fast as his unsteady little leg-stubs would carry him. He finally reached me after the marathon from the kitchen, threw his arms around my leg, pressed his face against my thigh, and said “Lubyou!” Hearing your child tell you they love you for the first time? Heart = melted.
There are few things in this world that can melt my heart – for me, it’s my faith, my family and dogs.
My friend, I hope you have a moment in the near future where your heart, as hardened and cynical as the world may have made it, melts into pure, bright rays of warm sunshine.
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