Inside the Bubble of Childhood

Editor’s Note: On this blog, I refer to my daughter as “Dear Daughter” (DD) and my wife as “Dear Wife” (DW).  

There she is, my Dear Daughter, under the warm haze of a summer night, chasing flickering fireflies with wild abandon across the expanse of our backyard, pigtails bouncing, sprinkling black girl magic like fairy dust as she giggles and darts about, carefree and innocent.

It’s just past 8:30 on a Saturday evening and I’m caught in an angle of reflection. It’s been five years since DD was born and 10 years since my Dear Wife and I exchanged wedding vows in a garden in Hawaii. Here I am at the intersection of two milestones, sitting on a wooden folding chair in our yard, watching my daughter live in the moment as I think about her future.

She is just starting kindergarten, but I’m already wondering what kind of person she’ll be thirteen years from now, when she’s 18 and on the cusp of college. Will her sense of awe and wonder still be intact? Will she remain strong-willed and fearless? Where will her love of music and performing lead her? How will her resilience manifest when, to borrow from James Baldwin, “the teeth of the world” grow sharp?

Her life is simple now, as it should be, filled with the little things that spark happiness: frilly dresses, Disney cartoons, magic wand bubbles, cuddle time, a pink bicycle with training wheels. She has no awareness of the headlines reflecting the troubled state of the world: mass shootings, white supremacist terrorism, trade wars, climate change, global inequality. Such concerns will inevitably creep into view as she moves through life but, for now, she’s cocooned in the bubble of childhood.

My wife and I began building this bubble in 2013, when we learned we were pregnant. As I once wrote, the process of becoming a parent means you make room for the arrival of a child – room in your home, in your thoughts, in your heart. “That’s what it means to become a parent: You make room.” For us, that room has now become a home. Inside, above our doorway, hangs a plaque that reads: Home is where your story begins.

Perhaps you don’t notice the passage of time because you’re busy raising, working, planning, loving, living.

My daughter is 60 months into her own story. August marked her fifth birthday, but also my anniversary of being a dad. I’m learning to let go a bit more, to let her fall, bump into things, learn from mistakes. I won’t always be there to protect her, but I can teach her to protect herself.

It’s often said that each year of a child’s life is precious, and it seems every parenting book underscores the importance of the first five which lay the foundation for future health and happiness. Lately, instead of “Is my daughter hitting her developmental milestones?” I’ve asked myself, “Where did the time go?”

Perhaps you don’t notice the passage of time because you’re busy raising, working, planning, loving, living.

Busy watching your child explode with excitement at the sight of fireworks lighting up the night sky on the Fourth of July.

Busy seeing her squeal with delight at the dolphins performing tricks at the zoo.

Busy going up and down, ‘round and ‘round as the chaperone on her first carousel ride.

Busy making memories.

Where did the time go? I’m not quite sure. But as I sit here watching my daughter run across the grass under the soft glow of yard lights, I know the days have been well spent.

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