I’d found a grocery bag in the bottom shelf of a shopping cart. That cart sat in the cart corral of a Harris-Teeter store, after dusk, with no one around. No one, that is, except for my baby. Elise sat in the front of our cart. It was just us two on a quick grocery run.
I scanned the lot, half hoping someone would step up to claim the groceries, half hoping no one would.
Fatherhood – parenthood – changes us. From within.
It’s a metamorphosis that takes a man in and transforms him to dad. Some come from instinct and history and nature. Some draw strength from character – or loses the same to it. It’s hope and expectation that turns over time to understanding and recognition.
It’s the realization that what we do holds much more influence than what we say.
Virtue and example
Show me, dad. Teach me, mom. By virtue and example.
Kids watch our speedometers and hear our words. They consider our actions more than they process what we say. Show me, dad. Teach me, mom. By virtue and example. They’re underfoot, for triumphs and defeat, to mimic reaction and reason actions.
They’re concessions we make when we make plans to make a family.
My dad sold his billiards table to make room for my room. Men trade in two-seaters for min-vans. They spend less time at the poker table, more time at the changing table. It’s less about hanging with the boys, more about caring for their boy. Or girl.
Suddenly, your personal integrity becomes a child’s how-to video.
I opened the sack. Deodorant. Candy. A six-pack of Diet Mountain Dew! Perfect for those late nights editing at the Asheville Citizen-Times – especially coming home to a night-owl toddler. Speaking of that toddler … she sat in the cart, barely a year old.
When you know you’ve done the right thing, that’s enough reward.
She’d have no idea
Not that a reward matters. It’s kind of our job, isn’t it?
She’d have no idea what dad decided. “C’ mon, lovey,” I said, placing the bag in the cart. “Someone’s going to be sleepy and stinky if they don’t get this bag back.” When you know you’ve done the right thing, that’s a reward.
Not that a reward matters.
It’s kind of our job, isn’t it? Probably those subtle instances the universe gives you a choice, it’s for practice. It’s a gut-check. What are you made of when no one’s keeping score? When you have faith that it matters, somewhere, some how?
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This post is part of Wednesday Word, a weekly feature on Deb Runs. The word of the day: Faithful. I took the prompt from writing prompts Cheryl Strayed suggested when asked for assignment ideas for students who read Wild: Write about a time when you knew you’d done the right thing.