One of the best things, in the life of a dad, is to be constantly surprised by your children. I would almost qualify that statement by specifying Only Good Surprises, but that’s not always true and factual. Regardless, tonight was one of those good surprise evenings.
In a rare convergence of compassion and childhood curiosity—hey, maybe she just felt sorry for me—my youngest daughter agreed to help me with my evening chores. I verbally respond to something happening in the other room: “you’ve got to live and learn!” And then the song immediately pops into my brain, a long forgotten ditty from my hip hop days.
You’ve got to live and learn / You’ve got to live and learn / Before your bridges burn / You’ve got to live and learn ~ Live And Learn by Joe Public
I ask her to retrieve the dirty dishes from the dining room table, and pass them over to me, so that I can rinse the debris. The Joe Public song, previously queued from YouTube, has concluded, and another Blast From My Past pops into my mind. I play Poison by Bell Biv DeVoe, followed with Ice Ice Baby by Vanilla Ice—not my follow-up choice, it just happened to autoplay afterwards.
We’ve got an impromptu dance party happening, in the middle of loading the dishwasher and it’s pretty terrific. I wouldn’t exactly say graceful, but it’s fun. She asks if I know any blues music—do I ever?—and I queue The Thrill Is Gone by B.B. King, followed by Something’s Got A Hold On Me by Etta James, Feeling Good by Nina Simone, and Me and the Devil Blues by Robert Johnson.
She takes her turn, sharing a YouTube video of a dog singing the blues. No, I’m not kidding, although it’s a common baseline for conversation, and that’s all that matters to me.
The dishwasher is now rumbling. She’s helps me feed the dog, and I’m off to the next chore: vacuuming the shag carpet to remove the buried guinea pig food, and strands of hay, from deep hibernation within the rug. Then there was an episode involving the removal of a large colony of stink bugs from the folded pink curtains, but that’s neither here nor there—only serving to further illustrate my point of excessive, time-consuming evening chores.
By 8:30pm, finished with my after-dinner tasks, I finally sat down to write a little, rest my feet, and get caught up on my narratives. My daughter peers over my shoulder and asks me about the story of the day. I indicate that I’m still a few stories behind, and that I haven’t even taken my photo for today. And that was that. Back to writing my narrative about our Christmas tree traditions.
Fifteen minutes later, she emerges from the middle of her bedtime routine, clad in pajamas, holding my digital camera. She turns the camera around, showing me the image on the LCD screen. It’s a portrait of a glass angel, one of the seasonal decorations, and I’m thinking to myself, “that’s a pretty good image.”
She tells me that she took the photo, for me, for my project, because I was too busy with all of my chores. I’m sure that tears were welling up in my heart, at that given moment.
I’m astounded, and I ask her how she took the photo. She describes hand-holding the camera, really still, and taking a few images. She lit the glass sculpture from the side, using the flash on her iPod—how resourceful!
I asked how she knew how to take a photo like this. She replies, “I watched you do it before,” and my heart melted just a bit more than before. This child, in particular, is a knowledge sponge, soaking up crafting tutorials and YouTube videos. Never did I imagine that she was cataloging my photographic skillsets.
To complete the image, I import it into my computer, load the proper software, and show her the cropped photo rendered in grayscale. She approves, two thumbs up.
To anyone who is wondering how kids affect your life, the answer is always: for the better. My role as a dad is one of the most satisfying jobs that I’ve ever attempted, and subsequently the most difficult.
But in the end, children are totally worth it, one impromptu dishwasher dance party at a time.