I sit watching my daughter struggle to put her shoes on.
Why must she always pick the most difficult shoes to put on when we are in a hurry?
“I can do it myself, Daddy!”
Yes, you can do it yourself, but it will take forever and once forever is finally over, I will be horribly late for my meeting at school. Just let me put the damn shoes on for you so we can get out of the house!
“Take your time, dear,” I say, “I know you can do it.”
I continue to work on deep breathing. I continue reminding myself that this very moment will be forgotten in time and life will continue.
I have a hard time believing myself.
“I can’t do it!”
She rips the strap out of the buckle and collapses onto the floor, taking us back to square one.
“I know it can be tough, but once you learn, you will be able to do it all by yourself all the time,” I say. “That’s what big girls do, they put on their own shoes, all by themselves”
My patience has now run dangerously thin. Perhaps we should pick up this nice life lesson after my PTA meeting.
“Why don’t I help you this time, and next time, you can do it all by yourself?”
I reach for her shoe.
She has started crying and holding on to her shoes. If I must act quickly or we are no longer on the verge of a major meltdown, we are. Think man, think!
“What’s wrong?” I ask because sometimes good ol’ logic can work on a 4-year-old.
“I don’t want to be a big girl! I want to stay a kid forever!”
I move closer. I sit next to her.
We sit in silence.
She is annoyed with her buckle, frustrated with being compared to “big girls” and just wants to stay a kid forever. Sometimes that’s all we have to go on. With parenting, it’s not always what sage advice we can lay on our kids that will help them grow up. Sometimes it’s simply being there to support what they may be feeling at that moment. It’s been a long time since I was 4 years old, but I can still recognize those feelings she has and validate the importance of them.
Today, we are sitting on the floor, crying, holding our shoes, and feeling like time should stand still.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bryan Grossbauer is an actor, musician, former teacher and full-time stay-at-home dad to two children. A member of our NYC Dads Group, he and his family live in New Rochelle and enjoy traveling, hiking, and live music. A version of this piece first appeared on his blog, Dig it, Daddy-O.