With a busy art show season coming to a close it’s time to turn some of my focus back to writing again, including renewed effort on this long neglected blog. While much of what I post here going forward will be photography or environmental themed, I do like to mix some more general life stuff in from time to time. And with that, the trials, tribulations and occasional minor triumphs of parenting provide ample opportunity for reflection; and plenty of stories to share.
Being a parent is hard. And no matter how many times we are warned of this- by friends, society, even our own parents (which we are exempt from taking seriously due to conflict of interest) it’s just one of those things in life that we can’t fully appreciate until having experienced it personally. For an undertaking so full of love, hope, and commitment there is also no better teacher of humility, or test of self-questioning than trying to lead tiny humans through a world that we probably haven’t really figured out ourselves.
Case in point. I had the chance to take my four-year old son on a couple of visits back home to Iowa this summer, which means the world to me. I want to make sure to foster and have him grow up feeling his connection to our Midwestern roots. I want him to make lifelong memories with his grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, come to understand the special little nuances of my hometown, and develop his own deep love for our family farm. I am very proud of where I come from and I want Caden to understand why, and to in some sense, have it always feel like home to him too.
With that in mind every time we head back I find myself eagerly anticipating days filled with fun and exploration. I envision us roaming the pastures together, sharing long talks, studying butterflies, skipping rocks and teaching my little boy to climb the same trees that I climbed in my youth.
But we haven’t had a day like that yet.
Cade’s focus is usually more on Grandma’s Lego collection or playing games on his tablet, and recently one particular day started with him frustrated at yet again trying to teach me how to use my parent’s satellite remote. He only took two bites of the crescent roll I bought him from the Tipton Bakery (a local delicacy) and balked at my eventual insistence that we turn off the electronics and spend some time outdoors. It was a gorgeous morning with cotton candy clouds rolling overhead, and I thought for a moment that he might have noticed… three steps out the door as he stood precariously on one leg, chin tilted skyward and gripping my shoulder for balance while I used a stick to scrape fresh dog shit off his shoe.
“Dad,” he said, staring adoringly upward.
“You have hair boogers.”
I had a stall at the Iowa City Farmers Market later that afternoon, and Caden seemed genuinely excited to tag along. I caught myself smiling on the drive over, remembering how at his age I was my Dad’s right hand man, and how he proudly smiled when the old farmers in the feed store would say “I see you got your help today…” every time we walked through the door. It was a classic Iowa line that I imagined I might now enjoy hearing a time or two myself. For that to happen, however, people would actually need to see my help, who spent most of the market hiding- under my sales table, behind my storage totes, or in the car. At one point however he did find a way to make his presence known, when while I was talking with a potential customer he decided to get my attention by tugging awkwardly on the back of my shirt. Somehow he managed to jump up and grab hold of my collar, yanking down in a way that pulled the fabric up in the front- fully exposing my stomach.
Let me tell you, friends… nothing closes a note card sale faster than the unexpected appearance of a lily-white dad belly.
And I don’t mean that in a good way.
After the market we walked downtown so I could get a photo of Cade standing next to the Herky the Hawk statue in front of the Old Capitol (determined to indoctrinate him if nothing else) and grab a bite to eat. The sun was setting as we started back to the car, and we passed a Muslim man laying down a sajjāda in preparation of his evening prayer.
“What’s that man doing?” Caden asked curiously as we walked by.
“He’s getting ready to pray,” I said.
The man kneeled, and holding hands as we continued through a cross walk I could feel my son repeatedly turn to watch over his shoulder.
“Why is he doing that?”
“Well honey, that’s just something that’s important to him. It makes his heart happy.”
We walked on, Caden taking one long last glance behind before looking back at me with a child’s innocent smile.
“That’s pretty cool, Dad,” he said.
Parenting can be really hard. But sometimes… it’s not.