This was written as a guest post challenge of “Walking With Intention”. To some it sounds like an exercise that monks would do in a monastery, slowly and deliberately moving each foot as they make their way across a garden, but not to me.
On a Sunday in September of 1987 I sat with a friend in my home watching Miami kick the Colts butts. Marino was playing a good game. Dave and I were both Miami fans and had been good friends since I got stationed with the 101st. We played basketball, tennis and golf together when we weren’t deployed.
With only 3 and a half minutes on the play clock, my 17 month old son abandoned his toys, toddled over to me and began to fuss. My nose told me instantly what the problem was. I stood, picked him up and said, “Come on little boy, let’s get you changed.”
Dave said, “Hey, can’t it wait 3 minutes?” despite having moved from the couch to the recliner to escape the smell.
“No, it can’t, he’s teething and getting a rash,” I answered.
“Get your wife to do it,” he whispered.
I laughed. “No. Besides, Miami’s got this.” I headed down the hall with my son.
About 15 minutes later my smiling toddler pulled me along, both of his little hands behind him in mine. We stepped into the living room and Dave said, “You were right.”
A loud, joyful squeal erupted from my son as I gently but quickly lifted him over my head. Knowing the risk, but not caring, I held him up there, laughing with his contagious giggles. As predictable as the sunrise, his drool hit my cheek as I snapped my head to the left just in time; it was worth it.
I set him down on his little feet, wiped my cheek off, kissed his forehead and gave him a pat to the bottom. “Go in the kitchen with Mommy,” I told him.
“Honey, Dave and I are going out on the deck for a while. The baby is headed your way,” I yelled toward the kitchen as I watched my son toddle toward the door.
“Don’t be long, dinner will be ready in an hour and we don’t offer table service here,” she replied.
I chuckled, looked at Dave and extended my arm toward the door. He raised his left eyebrow, got up from the recliner, grabbed his beer and headed toward the door.
Once we were outside with the door closed, I waved him toward a chair. Placing my soda on the railing, I hopped up to sit beside it so I could look at Dave as we talked. I took a moment to inhale the smell of fresh cut grass, listen to the birds tend to their needs and gather my thoughts.
“Tell me something. How long was this last deployment?” I asked.
“About six weeks, but you know that.”
“Hear me out. What happened when we dropped Jack off at his house when we got back?”
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“What did his kids do?”
Dave thought about it for a moment and said, “They backed off and hid behind their mother. It’s an occupational hazard.” He shrugged.
I nodded my head, then asked, “Have you ever seen my son do that?”
The crease I’d seen so many times developed between his eyebrows; he was mulling the question over. “No. Now that you mention it, I haven’t.”
“Why do you think that is?”
“I have no idea.”
I looked skyward. “Most guys our age would eagerly opt for an unnecessary root canal if it meant they never had to change another dirty diaper.” We both laughed. My eyes met his and in all seriousness I added, “But that’s the danger.”
“Where does it end? At what point do we trade paying the bills for a bedtime story, or mowing the lawn early so we don’t have to go with the wife and kids shopping? Do you remember Reed?”
“Not really, he left shortly after I got here,” he answered.
“He took a part time job. He said his Army pay wouldn’t cover what he and his wife wanted for their kids. Sgt. Raines had him set up for an appointment to reenlist. A month before the papers were to be signed, his four year old daughter came in to the kitchen where he and his wife were eating breakfast. She smiled at him, then whispered in her mother’s ear, ‘Mommy, who’s that?’,” I explained.
“Are you serious?”
“As a heart attack. He was devastated when he told me. It’s a rather extreme example, but things can get way out of hand if we don’t pay attention,” I said. “I don’t pass off diaper changes to my wife for a reason and there could never be a sporting event that would ever come before my child.”
He sat contemplating.
“From my point of view, a diaper change is a valuable opportunity. It’s a chance to take a child that’s uncomfortable and make them comfortable. Not only that, it’s time for a whole lot more. Most parents take two minutes on average, change their child and move on to the next thing. I don’t. I average fifteen minutes with my son. The change is done in three and the other twelve minutes are spent playing, snuggling or tickling. Assuming I split the changes with my wife, I spend 30 hours a month one on one with my son when he knows for certain that he is the most important thing in the world to me in that moment. This doesn’t count the times spent playing on the floor when his mom is sleeping in because she needs a break, or snuggling on the couch at nap time on Sunday, or story time at bed time, when I’m home.”
The story you read above is true. I’ve changed the names for anonymity, but what you read here happened.
What “Walking With Intention” means to me:
- Really doing, not just going through the motions. Moving and acting with a purpose at whatever speed.
- Taking the mundane and giving it meaning.
- Listening with your whole person. Especially in this day and age when multitasking between listening and email, texting, Facebook or Twitter have become the norm.
- Being in the moment. The next moment may not come and we cannot change the last one.
Take a lesson from Tai Chi. This is an ancient form of exercise that is done slowly. Each movement is repeated many times over in a year, carefully and consciously, all while controlling our breathing and being in that moment; everything done with intention.
What one gains with Tai Chi over time is:
- Control over one’s breathing, with increased cardiovascular function.
- A greater sense of our self, our body and our world.
- Lowered stress.
- Better health.
- Muscle memory so that should one need to defend oneself, the movements become automatic, not requiring thought.
How sad that a father should sacrifice time with his daughter to give her what he thinks is a better life only to find she doesn’t know who he is. Food for thought.
– I have been on this earth 50+ years and am still surprised at what I can learn. As one can see from my blog, I am particularly fond of Thinking, Feeling and Living; sometimes with humor, others with seriousness, but always with passion.
Written for Walking With Intention. If you’d like to be a part of the challenge, find more info here: Walking With Intention. But first leave a comment and let Charles know how you feel about what he said, and be sure to visit him over at The Window of the Soul when you’re done.
Featured image via http://www.forwallpapers.com