I am overlooking a creek bed, staring up at the darkened sky that is about to open up at any moment and start pouring. The wind has picked up and the cool breeze that preludes the rain is refreshing on my face, especially since I am hot from running around a playground for the last thirty minutes, and still trying to catch my breath. The thought of getting out of the elements and somewhere inside and dry is in the forefront on my head, but first I have to get my shirtless turtle hunter of a son out of the creek, wet shorts and all, and into my truck. He is not as concerned about the rain as I am, he is already wet, so he could care less about what is about to happen, nor is he in any hurry to do what I am telling him. He has spotted a turtle that has managed to crawl near him under the water, and he stares back at it like a caveman, about to pounce on his dinner. This is my life, the life of a dad, that has a kid, whose name is Jack.
Jack is a Jack, and there is really no other way to explain it. He is nimble and quick, fully capable of jumping over any candlestick (or fire pit), and is more than willing to climb the tallest tree or beanstalk around. He is a boy of many trades, and well, in his own words, ain’t scared of nothing. And I believe him. To have fear one has to have a healthy sense of what death is, and he is not worried about that little inconvenience right now. He is too busy, trying to live the life of a kid, a kid that sees the whole world as his very own backyard. He has no time to be concerned about what happens when it all ends, and I allow him to be that way. In his head, Heaven is a wonderful place full of wonderful people, the greatest playground of all time, so to him, whether he is with me down here, or up there with them gives him no worry. My job is to give him the opportunity to be a kid, not force him into being a man yet. He has plenty of time to be the man he will become later, but right now, he thinks he is a turtle hunter, deep in the Amazon forest somewhere, shirtless and dirty, wild and more importantly free to be just that.
He is not the nicest kid, nor the kindest, but he is working on it. He can’t sit still longer than ten seconds, unless it is to watch the Power Rangers, and even then, his body seems to morph into different positions on the couch. How a child is able to watch television upside down baffles me, but he can. He has his moments of crazy, and moments of chill, normally not at the times I want them to occur, but at the times of his pleasure. He thinks he is 10x bigger than he is, and I just sit back and let that monster run. He will soon learn he can’t run with the big dogs, but maybe he can, only time will tell, and he has all the time in the world, because little kids don’t function on clocks made of time, they simply function on days counted by the number of sleeps before the next adventure. And during those sleeps lives another kind of adventure for them. To watch Jack sleep takes almost as much energy as to watch him run, and just as much pleasure. He is somewhere magical, where the enemies he pretends to fight during the day, are still there in the night, only he is where they live, and the superpower of flight that takes his little feet just inches off the ground in my world, propel him through the sky in his. The older we get, we feel time travels so much more quickly than it did when we were kids, and the reason for that is when we are kids, the time spent in our dreams count just as much as the time we spend out of them. Kids get the benefit of living the full 24 hours of a day.
Jack wants to be a lot of things when he grows up, and the list seems to change quite often. From racecar driver, to Army man, to superhero (no one in particular, just plain superhero), to astronaut. The list grows as his imagination grows, and I am there to fill it as full as I can. I don’t know what he will be when he grows up, and by that, I mean I don’t know what profession he will do. I’m sure he will pick something someday, but that day is far away, in a place where I live now that has more rules than his. I don’t need him to live in my world just yet, but I will do my best to prepare him for it. I will tell him the truth about things, all the things he asks. I don’t tend to sugar coat things, because in the world of a kid, he gets too much sugar anyway. Sometimes the questions are easy, like how far is it to the moon (thanks Siri for the quick response time on those questions), but sometimes they are interesting. I can see his little brain trying to process things, I can see where he is starting to see my world and how it conflicts with his, and he has questions. I know he is starting to get exposed to more and more problems, problems that only really adults should have to deal with, but I hope to arm him with honesty and the truth. He trusts me because I tell him that truth, as much as I don’t always want to, but for him to hear lies from me only forces the wedge of connection we all need to trust one another in the first place. I can’t expect him to tell me what happened if I can’t tell him the same.
Jack is intense when he plays, and even when he doesn’t. He is still trying to figure out what boundaries are, and I am still trying to tell him you can’t check people into the wall when playing indoor soccer (maybe just a little). He is competitive and has been known to try and fight his own teammates, but also loves to hug the puppy that has found its way to the sideline during water breaks. He has shown me that having a kid doesn’t make your spectrum of emotion wider, you still have happy and sad, love and anger, but what he has shown me is having a kid makes that emotional spectrum more intense. No longer is my scale 0-10, it is more like 0-20. My happy is way more now, but so is my sad. Jack has done that. And as much as I have to try and teach him about his emotions and what they mean, I find myself looking at mine and re-learning how to deal with the intensity of them all.
Jack did not catch the turtle, but he is not discouraged, he has come up with a plan for the next time, and I can’t wait to see what that plan is. He slowly crawls out of the creek bed, that is in the middle of a public park, which is located in the middle of a big city, but he doesn’t realize that maybe he shouldn’t be there. He saw an adventure, and I let him go for it. He is wild, and he is brave, at least in this moment, and I will always let him exercise those traits. I can’t expect him to be a brave man if I don’t let him be a brave boy. He has my blessing to be Jack, even if it means I may be stuck out in the rain from time to time, because even as an adult, we have to practice our bravery too.