I have been walking a very fine line as the father of a 7-year old. On one side, my daughter has a passion for learning and wants to explore and experience the world, and I want to be the one in front leading her on this great adventure of knowledge and understanding. But on the other side, she is still just a little girl with a beautiful imagination and an endless stream of playful theories about the world, and I want to be the one to preserve and protect that innocence for as long as possible. I want her to feel free to express all of her crazy ideas and theories and I do not want to always be stepping in to correct every misunderstanding about life. But I sometimes struggle to know when I should be teaching and when I should be listening and waiting. It’s a delicate balance.
For example, the other day we were finding our way through the branches of a thick forest of spruce trees when she came upon a patch of moss covered in small white flowers. I quietly walked up behind her as she knelt down and counted the petals of each flower, touching each one like they were the fingernails of a tiny baby. She looked over her shoulder at me and smiled.
“What did you find, dear?” I asked.
She waved her hand over the speckled clearing. “There are flowers here.”
“Yes,” I nodded.
She continued, “I think it’s really neat that someone comes all the way out here into the forest to plant flowers.”
I hesitated, struggling to hold my balance. “Yes,” I said again.
I could have told her that this idea was nonsense. I could have said that no one other than God cared about these silly little white flowers growing in the middle of a forgotten forest out here beyond the limits of the map. I could have gently invited her into the real world where flowers lived and died alone in the woods without anyone to watch after them, without anyone to touch their fingernails and count their toes and smile at them in wonder. Instead I thought better of it. I left the idea to rest in her mind a little longer. I watched her adjust the pink purse full of chapstick and painted rocks on her shoulder, and continue her way through the forest, exploring her world, a world where kindly neighbors sneak out at night just to plant flowers in a clearing of spruce trees. A world where everyone values and loves life in the same way that she values and loves life. I rushed to follow her, reaching forward to touch her hand, wishing she could take me with her into that world.