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Published April 15, 2013, 11:35 PM

Parenting Perspectives: Daughter shows dad the beautiful in the common

I don’t remember all the details, but I do remember I was irritated. There was frost on the windows of my 1994 Nissan Sentra that morning. In Fargo, you can get pretty sick of scraping frost, and I was grousing to myself about the task before me.

I don’t remember all the details, but I do remember I was irritated.

There was frost on the windows of my 1994 Nissan Sentra that morning. In Fargo, you can get pretty sick of scraping frost, and I was grousing to myself about the task before me.

Then Talia, one of my twin daughters, said something like, “Isn’t the frost pretty?”

Her unintended reply to my own internal grumbling was amusing by contrast. She was right. Frost is pretty, and, as I recall, this particular frost was unusually so. I was mad at it. She was breathing it in like the little artistic bohemian that she is.

Ah, sweet perspective. One of the beauties of fatherhood is the way your children can draw you back into that world of simple wonder and play again.

In “Orthodoxy,” the late English critic and author G.K. Chesterton writes, “Fairy tales say that apples were golden only to refresh the forgotten moment when we found that they were green. They make rivers run with wine only to make us remember, for one wild moment, that they run with water.”

And children coax or drag us back into that world from time to time. Dads find themselves in the role of shining knight riding in to save their little princess. We build swords out of Legos and slay dragons. We study the delicacy and shapes of flower petals as we show them to someone who has yet to be bored by them. And you answer questions so basic that you just haven’t considered them in a long, long time – or at least you try to.

To be sure, children miss a lot of the beauty and wonder around them. I remember my dad used to get frustrated at me on car trips because I’d be comatose with boredom instead of taking in the world going by us.

And I’m not suggesting, of course, that I ought to live like a child. It may be that one of the reasons children notice the beauty of frost is that they don’t have to scrape it off the car and then drive people to school, then go to work, then come home and make supper and pay bills.

But I do want to suggest that there’s a lesson somewhere in there if you root around in the subject enough. In “Million Miles in a Thousand Years,” author Donald Miller writes, “I think life is staggering and we’re just used to it. We all are like spoiled children no longer impressed with the gifts we’re given – it’s just another sunset, just another rainstorm moving in over the mountain, just another child being born, just another funeral.”

The fact is frost is amazing. Flowers are fantastic. I remember my now-4-year-old son once talking about how it’s cool that we can bend our arms (or maybe bend them in a particular way).

He’s right! It is amazing. Try it. Bend your arm right now. How did you do it? You can’t explain it, can you? You just move it. You don’t even have to really decide to move it. You just move it. It’s crazy! I can both think of my arm as something separate from myself, yet control it with my thoughts or even apart from my conscious thoughts.

Yet, much of my time I spend worried about meeting this deadline or paying that bill or keeping some appointment. I suspect beauty and wonder are to us like water is to a fish. If you asked the fish about water, it would probably reply, “Huh? Well, I never think about it.” It’s just always there – and everywhere.

Children have this way of changing our perspective. If we listen, they help us remember that just because something is normal and common doesn’t mean it’s not fantastic and astounding; just because the canvas is a 1994 Nissan Sentra with a massive dent in the side and only three hubcaps doesn’t mean there isn’t a soon-to-thaw masterpiece painted upon it.

Shane Mercer is a father of three. Readers can reach him at (701) 451-5734.

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