As I picked my children up from school the other day it was evident that my one of the girls had a bad day. Although not voicing her frustration or what had gone wrong, she simply sat in the back seat of the car, somber, sad faced and quiet. Understanding over the years that it was far more effective and self-preserving to simply let it be, remaining quiet as she told me everything was fine, I simply told her if she needed to talk her mom and I were here for her. After a short time, and I must admit, a bit of prodding from me, the child broke her silence explaining that some of her friends had been giving her a hard time about things which seemed silly to good old dad but were life-altering to a child of ten.
Following listening to the child’s plight and after giving her a little pep talk about not giving up and remaining true to herself, I began doing what has got me in a moderate amount of trouble with her mother; I began giving her strategies to cope with the mean children she encounters. Realizing, the last time she and I discussed strategies, I ended up being pulled aside by my awesome wife, warning me about my “master class on dealing with confrontation” due to the child’s following through with my suggestions and leaving several other children bewildered by her reaction and response to their teasing, to say it mildly, I stopped in my tracks. Not wanting the child to again, misinterpret what dad may jokingly say, then repeat it, I simply reiterated her awesomeness and the importance of not allowing what others say get to her.
As the evenings mood changed and she was back to her normal self, I thought about a moment many years prior which found myself and my eldest daughter at our church in Colorado. As I went to the nursery to retrieve my two-year-old, she decided that it was an opportune time to seat herself on the top of my right foot and hold on to my lower leg with a tight grip, reminiscent of a vise grip, refusing to release. Deciding that removing the child would most likely bring with it a moderate amount of screaming, and why not let the kid have some fun, I simply began my journey back to my office, along the back of the sanctuary, with my child in tow, like an unremovable growth affixed to my leg.
As I began my journey, my daughter giggled with delight over her newly found carnival ride. Struggling to keep my balance, I quietly traversed the back of the sanctuary, striving ever so quietly to make it to the other side without disrupting the choir practice taking place. As I made it successfully to the mid-way point of the sanctuary, I was feeling pretty good about myself. Not only did I show my strength to my child, but I also added to her joy and was not disruptive. That’s what I thought, at least. Without warning, I began hearing light laughter. As the tone of laughter began rising, I turned my head towards the choir to see what had happened. It was then that I realized, my attempts to make it across the sanctuary unnoticed was a complete failure as the watering eyes of the choir members revealed their pleasure in watching me and my child.
As we engage life, we come across events and people who for what ever reason, simply, have a negative outlook or derive pleasure from trying to bring us down. Understanding why people act in such a manner is many times pointless. Their mean spirited and negative behavior can many times leave us frustrated or angry, in turn causing us to change our outlook on events, people, or even life. When we are confronted with these situations, we must simply grab hold of the positive and hold on, being true to ourselves, allowing no one or nothing to lower our level of compassion. As my child did, grabbing hold and failing to let go of the enjoyable things in life, will not only firm up our individual worth but likewise enhance the journey of others. Hold tight friends, giggle, and enjoy the moment.
Richard J. Stephens lives in Carter County and is the father of three little ladies ranging in age from eight to 29.