Sunday, September 27, 2009
For Our Children . . .
A little over a block from our home is College Hill Park. It's this great, 22-acre park in the middle of the "big city" of Wichita. Not that we Wichitans need an escape from the urban jungle but, regardless, it is a quiet, expansive space where "community" becomes real.
At any given time you can find adults playing tennis, children on the playground, teens just "hanging out," people of all ages and demographics walking their dogs, families out walking and my strong-minded fellow runners doing their thing. Sometimes you can see Shakespearian productions or hot air balloons being launched or high schoolers running cross country or people looking for easter eggs, flying kites, whatever.
Last evening I saw something I've never seen in College Hill Park. A stroller. Okay so I've seen strollers but I saw as stroller alone. Just sort of standing by the curb. Water bottle and a few toys in the netting below, no sign of an owner or a child at either side of or in the midst of a stroll.
The unattended stroller reminded me of something that I sort of lose sight of as a father. We do a lot of things for our kids.
We buy them over-priced strollers. We put them in our minivan and drive them to the park. We push them around. We make chit chat with the other parents. We acknowledge that we are, at the end of the day, just another parent. We do all that for them and we do it gleefully.
We give stuff up too. We sacrifice a latte of our Starbucks money. We turn in on our late nights and even later mornings sleeping off the late nights. We learn about bottle variations and formulas of formula. We learn to fold teeny-tiny clothes. We learn to eat strained veggies only to show them how "delicious" they are. We do it all for them and we do it gleefully.
We vow that nothing will ever harm them. We vow that nothing will ever go wrong for them. We vow that they will graduate top of their class (in high school, at the first Ivy League school of their choice for undergrad and then the second Ivy League school of their choice for grad and then the third Ivy League (or perhaps a Western or Southern Ivy for good measure) of their choice for their PhD). They'll get married - or a least find a loving life partner of in their gender preference and that they have as many (or as few) kids as they choose. Kids that they might someday drive the minivan, kiss overpriced coffee goodbye for and buy all the accoutrements and trapping of parenting for. Even that stroller. And they will do it all for them and they will do it gleefully.
But, for whatever reason, the owner of that stroller yesterday afternoon did something sort of ironic. They (mother, father or both) were so busy sacrificing, rushing, pushing and pulling, like we all seem to be in that park or any other part of parenting (loading the car up, going to the emergency room with split lips, begging for peas to be eaten or teeth to be brushed) that they forgot their stroller. They loaded the kid in the car. Strapped them in. Ensured they were safe and snug and ready to head out to the family's next Saturday commitment.
They did everything right. Sacrificed. Kept their focus on the child. Let everything else seem and be irrelevant. I'm sure they made it home safely yesterday afternoon and I'm sure the parent(s) of that kid got in the garage, unloaded the kid and the toys. They probably never realized the stroller was gone. It wasn't relevant in the context of being home and safe and happy.
But they will notice. Maybe it was today. Maybe it will be next week. Maybe it won't be for a month. They'll realize that they misplaced that stroller and then they'll realize what a stupid mistake it was. And how many lattes they could buy with the money they'll instead spend on another stroller. And they'll go buy another stroller. And they will do it gleefully, just like they did with the first stroller.