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Stay in Pure Childhood Bliss

Stay in Pure Childhood Bliss

“Take my shirt off! Take my shirt off!” my 3yo shouted with pure childhood bliss. She wanted to be like the older kids running across the grass as shirtless savages of summer. Normally, she does not let it all hang out.

So I took off the shirt, cursing myself for having left the sunscreen at home. It was already 4:30. Post-PTH, hopefully. (*peak tanning hours.)

I knew one of the boy’s parents and we’d met at the park for happy hour summer picnic. I needed adult contact since my one-year-old was near peak of his incessant whininess.

Upon arrival, the parents offered me a beer. I nearly downed it in one sip.

Seconds later, I noticed my 3yo and the older kiddos were missing. I said as much.

“Oh, they’re over behind that brick wall playing in the fountain,” the mom said as she handed me a second beer. “They’re fine. Don’t worry.”

I’m sorry. What part of that statement should not have made me panic? Our kids were out of sight, in New York City, playing in a fountain hidden by a stone wall.

I was fairly certain the 5-year-olds weren’t trained lifeguards.

I tried looking calm with a frozen smile. I took a sip, stood up, carried the whiny 1yo (who whined with the movement), and left to investigate.

At the stone wall I saw that the fountain was “only” a 12-inch-wide ring of water surrounding a 10-foot sculpture by Tom Otterness. The water flowed in a circle around the sculpture. True: I needn’t worry. Too much.

My 3yo joined the boys dropping items (trash, really…broken balloons, styrofoam) in the “upstream” part of the fountain, then chased it around the 10-foot circle. They were definitely in pure childhood bliss.

As I approached, my kiddo reached into the water, jumped up with hand clenched and squealed, “I got one!”

“What’d you get, buddy?”

“A shock!”

“A shark?”

“Yeah!” she beamed. It was new for her to play so imaginatively.

She was so happy. I was so happy to watch it.

The entire situation reminded me of studying “A Perfect Day for Bananafish“, J.D. Salinger’s short story, in my high school English class. It’s a moment of innocence in which an unstable Army Veteran is reminded of “pure childhood bliss” as he unexpectedly plays with a child in the ocean who swears she sees “bananafish” underwater.

But I digress.

Some kids around nine or ten years old had entered the scene at the fountain. They sat on benches nearby. They held skateboards and sported baseball caps over shaggy hair.

The 5-year-olds playing in the fountain stuck started taunting the skater boys and sang “nanny, nanny- boo, boo.” The skater boys didn’t take the bait. They minded their own business and joshed around like 10-year-old boys. They occasionally laughed or pointed at the little kids. It was innocent, but it also looked like gangs forming.

My 3yo still jumped and splashed, squealed and laughed. She kept grabbing items (trash) at the “top” of the stream and watched it float with the current. He dipped his bloated diaper in the water. She looked at me and enthusiastically screamed, “Daddy!”

It was a juxtaposition of innocence (and innocents): my kid and the two rival gangs (the 5yo’s and the 10 yo’s). I whipped my phone out to video the pure childhood bliss. She hadn’t a care in the world, least of all the chiding of other kids. Not a speck of self-consciousness informed her actions…no insecurities about clothes, having two daddies, vocabulary, nothing.

She just played.

How can she know the joy that brought me or how precious that time was for her? The only thing existing for her was imagination and water and pure childhood bliss (and trash).

If I could endow my kids with only one gift, just one, I’d make them impervious to judgment. I know that’s impossible. But couldn’t she always play in her own world with the water and ignore the others?

Kiddo: don’t modify your behavior or preferences or speech. Just play. Just be. Just maintain that pure childhood bliss for as long as possible.

I hope I’m able to show that video to her one day (assuming I don’t drop my phone in the kids’ bathtub a third time) and help her reconnect with a paradigm free of self-consciousness.

May there be many, many, many more moments of pure childhood bliss.

And please: let me witness a few more of them.

Originally published on Daddy Coping in Style.

I (Suddenly) Love Frozen

I’ve written a variation on this theme, before, but it’s the greatest hope I have for my kids.

“Daddy? You be ‘Anna’ and I’m going to run away from you with my cape and you say, ‘No, Elsa! Don’t go!’ Ok?”
“OK, buddy.”

Role-play ensues.

Even Colton, who’s words are limited to “pee-pee” and “nana” gets into it. When he sees anything Frozen, he shouts “Anna!”

As already discussed, our household is ruled by Frozen. (Actually, Thomas the Train still rules, but there’s a lot of Disney princessifying going on.)

Frozen thrills Ellison. He plays all the rolls: Kristoff, Sven and (especially) the sisters. I’ve gotten good at fashioning dresses out of old swaddlers (blankets, not Pampers.)

The other day I figured, “Eh, he hasn’t watched it in two weeks. Why not?” As we waited for the movie to load on my computer, Ellison jumped on the bed shouting, “Hooray! Hooray! I’m so excited to watch Frozen!”

He shouts “hooray” sans irony. I mean, who talks like that? It’s so…earnest, so…“Barney” dialogue.

After a recent snowstorm, we built “Olafs” in our backyard with some play-date friends, a boy (age 5) and his sister (age 3).

When Ellison started singing, “Do you want to build a snowman?” the boy said, “I hate Frozen. It’s all about love. And I hate love.”

“Wow. That’s…specific,” I sputtered.

His little sister said, “Yeah. I don’t like it, either.”

“Oh,” Ellison said; then (matter-of-factly) added, “I like it!”

It was as if they’d said “my name begins with R” and he said “Oh. Well, my name begins with E.”

And in that moment, I felt a desperate need to stop time, grab Ellison, and say, “Buddy, you go ahead and LOVE Frozen with all your heart, just as you do, now. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.”

Their mother rolled their eyes saying, “Whatever. They were both dancing around in Frozen dresses, this morning. Peer pressure. It’s no longer cool for him to like the movie. And his sister’s just following.”

“Already?” I thought. “At five years old social acceptance looms?”

I hate that.

I’ve spouted lessons for my son in this blog. But above all, I wish most for him to hold on forever to that innocence where he loves what he loves. If he’s thrilled with Frozen or football or fungi, I’ll be elated to talk about it.

How I wish he could live divorced from anyone else’s opinion. Watching his captivated face as he’s engrossed/scared/delighted watching Frozen warms my heart.

Eventually, I know he’ll follow crowds.

I know he’ll say to me, “Daddy, don’t hug me so much,”

or “Daddy, it’s not cool to sing,”

or “Daddy? Can you drop me off at the corner? I can walk the rest of the way myself.”

But I wish it wouldn’t happen soon.

Son, just hold on to whatever makes you feel joy and free and light and inspired. And if whatever inflames your passion is something that isn’t cool for the outside world, I promise you: it’s safe in our house. So act out Frozen or play football or become bizarrely obsessed with fungi.

Your passion and interests are always safe with me.

I know you’ll be influenced by others far too soon.

But be innocent for as long as possible.

That’s my deepest hope for you, buddy boy.