by Archie Wortham
"Sometimes...all it takes is holding a hand to really connect"
One afternoon I decided to take my sons out for a walk. My older son said so "mom could have some peace." Out of the mouths of babes, I thought as I quickly scurried them for our trek, alone, around the block. Granted it was a time we could be together, but in reality? I just wanted to tire Myles, who had just turned two, out while placating his older brother so that bedtime would be uncomplicated and quick, so I could get to quietly watch a movie and be done before 10. Sound familiar?
Well, little did I know what was in store for me. You see, I thought that by walking in front of younger son, little Myles, he'd want to keep up with me. Then, I thought by walking next to little Myles, I could encourage him to keep up with me. I thought by walking with my boys, I'd be in charge of this walk. Was I ever wrong.
What happened when I walked in front of Myles? He was tempted to scurry off the beaten path. He traveled his own route, and if I didn't pay attention to him? He'd be off into his own thing. So I had to walk back to where he was, and make sure he was safe. The fact I had to return to where he was, or constantly look over my shoulders should have told me I had no business walking in front of him.
During this time, five-year-old Jeremy was quite a few steps in front of us, so I had to tell him to wait up for his brother and me. Sometimes older siblings have to do that. Parents too, sometimes we must slow down so the other parent can catch up. So what happened when I tried walking next to Myles? This proved to be a better position, but he still chose to stop when he wanted to stop. He'd see me looking away, and then choose to run behind me, to the left, right, or sit down. Annoying? Yes it was. Until I realized what I had to do. I simply reached down and grasped his hand.
As he held my hand, he looked me in the eyes, smiled, and proceeded to pull me along. We were connected. We were side by side. We saw everything at the same time. Though we were not shoulder-to-shoulder, we were joined, and whatever encounter came our way, we encountered them at the same time. As I walked at the same pace he walked, my steps were more measured, smaller because I had the longer stride, and I saw things I normally might have missed, had I not been tugged along by his little hand.
We got energy from each other. He was less likely to fall, because he had me to hold. He was less likely to venture into the grass and upset a hill of fire ants because I was truly guiding his path, helping him measure his gait. He was less likely to stop because his dad was right beside him, constantly encouraging him. His steps were a bit more confident, as his eyes were more focused on where he was going because he had a lifeline acting much like a rudder. That lifeline was his dad. And Jeremy?
Jeremy on the other hand was quite comfortable setting his own pace. He was still within our view, but Jeremy had been through this before, and from experience, Jeremy's role in the family had changed. Jeremy had the added responsibility of his little brother, Myles, who with dad and an older brother helping, would find his own way of doing things by watching us both. And for a while, being focused on keeping up with his big brother was almost as important to Myles as holding his dad's hand. For dad, the whole experience centered on an opportunity to do something together. Sometimes we dads really need to see things at a different level, or walk at a different pace to fully understand why we do the things we do, to get where we want to be.
Walking next to Myles, I could see things when he saw them. The wind hit us at the same time. We heard Jeremy's voice almost at the same instant. Moreover, whatever we felt, those moments were communicated simultaneously in our touch as we held hands. Life is not so much about what we have, but what we do with what we have.
A part of those experiences is realizing that our kids want to share all they can, whenever they can. If we are in front, they may elude us and we may not be able to catch them before they fall. If we are behind them, we may not be able to even catch up to hear them. If we are next to them, we have a much better chance of seeing things as they see them. But if we can in fact hold their hands? Then we have a much better chance of our kids getting the most out of any walk, trip, game, or anything we do when we place them us at our side, no matter where we are. Because no matter when they have to venture out on walks of their own, as dads, if we've have taught them how to enjoy their walk, we shouldn't have to worry where they walk, cause a part of us will always be there to guide them along.
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