“Dad, are you happy?”
This is a question I would expect from any one of my daughters. They have grown in a household where we aren’t afraid to ask each other questions if we sense the need to go there.
But I was taken aback when it was my 2-year-old son, Caleb.
“What did you say, buddy?” I responded just to make sure I heard him correctly.
“Are you happy, Daddy?”
Yep, that’s what I thought he said. I was stoking the wood stove when his question flew across the living room and landed in my ears. I wasn’t unhappy, but I was distracted and somewhat preoccupied.
“Yeah buddy, I’m happy?” I said to answer his probing inquiry.
“Me happy, too, Dad.”
He bounded off like Tigger and left me sitting there wondering what he saw in me that made him ask me that. What was my face saying? What was my spirit emitting that made him stop dead in his tracks to pull me out of my trance? I still don’t know exactly.
I do wonder sometimes what kids notice that we don’t think they do. What they pick up on that we think we alone are privy to. I shutter at the thought.
A moment later he stumbled over and draped himself over my lap. He gasped out these words as his lungs were stretched over my knees…
“Dad, I a good boy?”
“Yep, buddy, you’re a good boy.”
He threw his arms around my neck and gave me a hug repeating my answer as if to speak encouragement into his own heart…
“I a good boy.”
All these feelings, moods, words, touches, non-verbals, voice inflections…all these combine to communicate a powerful narrative to our children, answering questions we rarely consider they’re actually asking. The answers they receive to these spoken and unspoken questions at the earliest of ages write the prologue of their storied lives. If we aren’t careful, we will show up late into their story before we realize how many chapters have already been written without our consciousness.
May I wake up to what is already happening that I’m mistakenly waiting for.