“Dad, I can’t give that one to him!”
My 7 year-old daughter’s face wrinkled in disgust as if I’d suggested something awful.
My out-stretched hand held a flimsy, valentine with two puppies pictured on the front.
“Why not?” I asked in ignorance – I hadn’t even taken the time to read it.
“Look at what it says.” She shyly blushed and recoiled.
Now reading the card, I resigned myself to the fact that “Looking Good!” was not the signal my daughter wanted to send to her second grade classmates.
She, instead, grabbed the “You’re Awesome!” valentine and scribbled onward – all while I stared off to nowhere, my mind lost in thought and worry.
My mind drifted to the past:
“Would you like to cut the cord, Mr. Walsh? She’s beautiful.”
“You’ll be fine, Vivi – by the end of the day, you’ll be loving Kindergarten. I promise.”
My worries looked into the future:
“Which pedal is the clutch again?”
“Is this prom dress too showy, Dad?”
“Dad, I met someone today…”
Those days are coming, and, if I let them, they’ll dominate my focus too soon – as they did the other day.
“Dad, Dad! Heellloooo! Can you hand me another one?” My daughter’s sweetly annoyed voice brought me back to the task at hand.
The balance between creating memories while getting things done and worrying about what is lurking is the dance of my parenthood – and, at times, I have two left feet.
But, I’m going to win today – mostly because I’m trying hard to focus on the little moments I share with my kids and, in part, because I know that these cute, innocent days are numbered.
Worrying too much about the future clouds my ability to treasure moments that today are remarkable and tomorrow may very well be forgotten – times like my 4 year-old asking if he needed underwear to play outside yesterday, or as my youngest daughter screamed as she discovered she’d hugged the leg of a stranger at the supermarket.
I’ve lost too many memories to worry and over-preparedness.
So, as Vivi and I taped Fruit-By-The-Foot to each neatly folded “You’re Awesome!” or “Good Friends!” cardboard valentine, I refocused and soaked it in.
It felt great.
That is, until my daughter made a simple request of me.
“Dad?” Her voice was sweat and soft.
“Yes, Vivi,” I replied, looking up from the tape dispenser.
“Hand me the ‘Looking Good!’ one, please.”
She secretly scribed a name – making sure I didn’t see.
I attached the candy to the sealed cardboard.
That must be some classmate, I thought.
For now, though, she’s my valentine.