Last weekend was a holiday weekend in the U.S., Labor Day, a day which was originally intended for those in professions like customer service and retail to have a day off (my feelings about how its anything but that is the subject of another post). We Americans recognize Labor Day as the unofficial end of summer, as many public school systems start soon after that weekend if they already had not, and the weather begins to be cooler as we enter September.
For the long weekend, Karen and I had planned a final beach excursion for the summer. I’m thoroughly enjoying the fact that we can now be at the coast in 40 minutes or less, and our daughter has shown an early love of the water. Still, cold weather comes early to New England, so there won’t be many of these day trips left (true New Englanders call it “cool” now, but this is one of the ways that I can’t help but reveal that I’m a transplant).
We knew that our planned beach trip was off when we awoke to a steady rain on Monday morning, and so we set out to find other activities that we could do with our daughter (to whom I was already having to explain that she wouldn’t get to go to the beach as planned…did I mention she’s not yet two?). After realizing that lack of reservations and other logistical issues were ruling our some museum trips that we wanted to take, we had resigned ourselves to catch up on some reading when it happened. Our daughter, enthusiastically racing across the living room to show me something, tripped, and went full-tilt and face-first…or, more precisely, nose-first…into the sofa.
Now, I’m usually the excitable parent, while Karen is the calm and unshakable one. I’m the one who is generally ready to go to extreme solutions while Karen is the one shaking her head and telling me that said extreme solution isn’t necessary (I once wanted to call Poison Control because she put a sticker in her mouth. Don’t judge, okay? I’ve never done this parenting thing before). So, when Karen succinctly indicated that medical attention was likely warranted, I knew that I was correct in my assumption that we had a situation on our hands.
And, so, Labor Day 2013 saw our daughter’s first injury-related rush to an urgent care. Not an awesome way to spend the day.
It turns out that, as bad as it looked, there was nothing there that a cold pack, Tylenol, and some TLC wouldn’t cure. In fact, our daughter woke the next morning to tell me first thing that “My boo-boo feels much better” (did I mention she’s not yet two??). Insert enormous sigh of relief here. I was thinking, though, that, as much of a bummer as it was to spend our Labor Day in such a way, it was much more tragic for our little girl. She was having a grand time running and playing and showing us things that she could do and build with her toys, when her grand time came to a screeching halt by a mere mis-step. Six inches the other way, and what had painfully disrupted her entire day would simply have been another toddler’s fall. There’s something absolutely heart-breaking about the entire situation when I pause to see this from her tiny perspective.
Many things change, I’ve found, when viewed from her perspective. Monday’s lost plans wouldn’t have been nearly as sad had the day not involved an injured little girl. It’s one of those ways in which being a father has changed me. I’ve never found myself so easily seeing the world from someone else’s point of view before now.
Something equally as huge is the way in which having a daughter makes me self-aware. I see myself through her eyes, as the superhero who can fix anything…any broken toy, the shoe that gets stuck and she can’t take off on her own. I’m the one who will carry her up the steps that she’s too tired to climb. In her words, “Daddy will fix it.” I’m in no way worthy of that adoration.
Both of these awarenesses…seeing the world and seeing myself from her perspective…has changed me a great deal as a human being.
The result is humbling in ways that I can’t even find words to write.