When you stop trying, change happens.
That face you see is my son’s smiling face as he swings higher than I’ve ever seen him swing before.
In fact, I’ve never seen him swing before. Except on a baby swing. With a look of sheer terror. Years ago. However, suddenly there he was, climbing on, and asking me to push him higher, and higher still.
I wish I had a picture of the look that must have been on my face. As it stands, I have a very clear memory of the feeling that stirred within me.
You see, Dash is nearly four years old. And we’ve been going to playgrounds for most of those four years. So you might think that he really likes playgrounds, but the truth is that he tends to steer clear of anything but the sandbox. Digging in the dirt is magical for him. But forget about any of the normal playground equipment—slides, ladders, monkey bars, and especially the swing-set—he didn’t want any part of that “playing with the fear of falling” baloney.
Until now. Somewhere, somehow, something changed.
To be perfectly honest, there were times when I was even a little bit worried. It was hard not to be, when I would see a friend’s two-year-old hurtle themselves down a slide with abandon (and giddy glee), while my son made it perfectly clear that he had no interest. Was I failing him as a father? Should I have been grabbing him and heading for the swings or slides, making him ride on my lap until he saw that there was nothing to be afraid of?
But despite my own fear of not doing right by my son, there was something even deeper within me that urged the course I took. Patience. Acceptance. Appreciating what is, instead of worrying about what isn’t.
My agenda for my son, after all, is not “be the youngest child to master a jumping dismount from the swing-set”. I want him to be confident. I want him to feel comfortable taking risks—relishing success and accepting, learning from, failure. I want him to know the feeling of trust—in himself. In recognizing his own limits, and knowing when to stretch them.
And now it makes perfect sense. It’s precisely because we allowed him to focus on his needs, his desires, that he was finally ready to jump on a swing and start swinging.
All in good time.
Are you following desire, or running from fear?
So what’s really important? How much is “what you want” conditioned by what you’re afraid of? What if I told you that it will all come to be absolutely perfectly? All you have to do is simply focus your energy on creating the best environment for it to happen.
For instance, I *wanted* my son to fearlessly swing on the swings. But in looking at it honestly, I was simply afraid that Dash was becoming timid – and that it was my fault. So the real question, then, becomes not “how do I get him on those swings” – but simply, how do I nurture his faith in himself.
By giving him all the time in the sandbox that he wanted. That he needed, apparently.
If your soil is rich, if you have good solar exposure, if you have water, if you’re not afraid to spend some time pulling weeds – then you plant the garden. At that point, your job is simply to nurture. Isn’t it funny how the seeds just take care of themselves? You don’t have to tell them how to grow, after all.
When the time is right
Whether we’re guiding our children, our dogs, our spouses, or ourselves, it seems that the true measure of contentment is not how quickly we make notches in the belt of progress, but how much we can enjoy the moment for what it is. Time is irresistibly moving forward. And while change can, and does, happen in an instant, preparing for that change can take…its sweet time.
The following video captures a late-night performance of a song I wrote while my wife and I were waiting for Dash’s birth. He was two weeks “late” – which meant for about a month of waiting. I was inspired to make this video when I heard that my friend and fellow EJer Ben Ralston is also currently anticipating his first child’s arrival. There’s solidarity in waiting, after all.
And just about everything worth having is worth waiting for. Enjoy.