You could see how much he loved her.
One of my greatest teachers taught me parenting is about teaching by example and learning how to follow your child’s lead. I have read countless books about the importance of modeling and being attentive, responsive attuned and sensitive to the needs of your child. Yet, it took an encounter on a crosswalk for me to understand the real meaning of these words.
My wife and I were driving into town this week to go dancing. We were talking about dance leads and how we communicate our various dance moves through touch and hand movements. Lady Gaga was playing on the car stereo while we were stopped at a light. I looked ahead and there they were, father and daughter. A tall muscular man with broad shoulders was holding his daughter’s hand as they crossed the street. They smiled, laughed and looked at one another. In the car our music played and the winter wind blew but I swear I heard them squeal with delight. Their eyes gleamed as they shook their heads back and forth as if saying “no I am right” to one another.
It was not so much the gentle way his large hand carefully encased and caressed hers or how his arm stretched and his knees bent to allow their hands to meet. Rather, it was the way the world compacted into a small container of two beings, he and his daughter. Certainly, he was aware of the stop-light, the cars, the blowing wind and the upcoming curb but all of these were transient and disappeared within his daughters grasp.
He looked at her and she at him. They talked, giggled and danced across the street almost floating until she hopped up on the curb. Just then he turned and gave me a thankful nod for giving them extra time to cross. As he smiled so did I while watching them hand in hand dance away.
As a parent you will have countless opportunities to tell your child what to do, when to do it and why to do it. Yet, no matter how numerous these opportunities are they always come to an end. Each of us must replace this telling with listening and showing just as this father did. In this way lessons learned by your example, your voice, your touch, your patience and your loving support will never end.
Parenthood is a dance. As my wife and I pulled away from that street corner and a new song came on the stereo I realized each of us dance best when we remember how our leads change forever the lives of the children we touch.