…So I am proud only of those days that we pass in undivided tenderness,
when you sit drawing, or making books, stapled with messages to the world…
or coloring a man with fire coming out of his hair
Or we sit at a table, with small tea carefully poured;
so we pass our time together, calm and delighted.– Robert Bly – For My Son, Noah, Ten Years Old.
Today, I heard a boy throw a stick against the ground and say, “Listen, Daddy, to the sound I make with this stick.” The daddy kept walking and told his son to hurry up or he was going to leave him. Later I saw a small, round-faced girl pick up a rock as her daddy window-shopped through his busy mind, looking at all he did or didn’t do that day or in his lifetime, or perhaps he was thinking of all he could buy if he just knew how to turn lead into gold. She held the rock up to him; she was as excited as if it were the gold that he longed for. “Put that dirty thing down, young lady. It’s nasty.” She put it down, and something in her face, and perhaps her soul, disappeared. God in a rock, held up by two small hands, became something nasty, and she might never feel and see a stone that way again. When she grows up, like her daddy and me, will she tell her child to put God down in favor of window-shopping? When she grows up to be almost as big as her daddy, will she tell her child to put God down in favor of window-shopping too? And will she feel far away from herself and those she loves on days when rocks could still be sacred, and sticks could still make music?
If we men would slow down long enough to feel the loss of our childhoods and grieve over the word’s “baby” and “child,” if we would let ourselves weep over the fact that someone hurried us when we needed to be seen, heard, and perhaps indulged a bit, I have to believe we’d feel closer to ourselves, and we just might be able to become the fathers we never had.