Yesterday we were running together. It was such a simple thing – you needed to go on a potty break and we were sitting in the grass behind the right field fence at the baseball game. We got up to go and you immediately started running because that’s what you do now. You run everywhere.
So together we ran. We ran past the bull pen and the big frog mascot, past the concession stands and the bouncy house and the souvenir shop where you slowed down a bit to look at the pink baseball jerseys. Together we ran through the sparse crowds all the way to the other side of the stadium.
You walked into the restroom by yourself, something I’m still not used to, and when you came back out you immediately looked for me. When you found me again we grinned at each other, hesitated for just a second to make sure we were both ready, and then we took off running again.
Back through the crowds we ran, weaving our way past the ice cream stand and the condiment station. I could see some people smiling at us as we dashed past them. Then we broke free from the crowd and ran out onto the open grass field next to the stadium. With nothing in our way you hit full speed. Your hair was flying wildly behind you and your hot pink sneakers were flashing in the sun. You looked at me with the biggest smile and the crowd cheered a play. It didn’t occur to me that I was missing the game. In that moment it was just you and me running together, simple yet symbolic of where you and I are now.
Today you are five years old. You are stronger than ever yet you can still be driven to tears if you have trouble taking off your shoes. We continue to struggle as most parents and children do. I perpetually pick the wrong outfits for you to wear in the morning and that frustrates you tremendously. You constantly tell me how hungry you are. Yet when I fix meals you pick at the bits you want, tell me how much of it you don’t like, eat two bites, and then tell me you’re done.
You have full conversations with your little barbarian brother now, too. You tell him what’s what like a five-year-old older sister who knows everything about everything. In return he hits and pinches you, steals your things and disrupts your attempts at keeping your world in order.
You have developed a love of nature. Bugs and flowers are your favorite items to pluck from outside and bring into the house. You have changed my opinion of the value of dandelions and buttercups in my lawn because you frequently bring me bouquets of them.
You are a little girl who is on the verge of great change. Soon you will go to school and begin the next phase of your young life. You are so ready. You crave socialization with other kids and it’s heartbreaking sometimes to see you standing at the front fence searching the neighborhood for another child, any child, to play with. Often they are all in school or daycare or away on a family vacation and you are left with just me and your brother again. Don’t worry, soon you will join their ranks and your life will change dramatically. I am beyond excited to see you out in that new world.
During this past year the important lesson I have been learning is how to cultivate the ability to let go, to accept that I cannot give you everything I want for you. There is the sense of powerlessness every parent experiences that comes from watching your children grow up and become independent. For us now there is an extra element in our lives which prevents me from giving you everything I feel you deserve. Another part of me, the better angel as it were, knows I have to accept what can’t be changed. This is hard to do for I am a father, I am a provider, and when I can’t provide what I feel is the best for you I feel like I am failing.
Yet, when I come home from work or pick you up from a grandparent’s home you always greet me with wild enthusiasm. You still want me to look at every drawing you make, every flower you pick, every outfit you wear. Those moments will always get me through difficult days, when it’s not all sunshine and baseball games.
You and I will keep running together. As we continue to run you will get faster with each passing year. Eventually your eyes will turn away from me and out toward the world in front of you. Soon you will no longer need me to tell you which way to go and then it will be just you running alone headlong into your future. I will watch you go, so very proud that it was me you were smiling and running with that day at the game.
You are my bright, beautiful child and today you are five years old. Nothing I have ever done or ever will do in this world can mean as much to me as being your father. I am so proud of the girl you have become.