Playground Perspectives: Writing Our Stories (September 2011)

During our summer weekends at her great-grandfather's riverfront home in Deltaville, Thea found a home in a hammock.It was where she and Nikole went to watch the sun rise over the Chesapeake Bay each morning, and where she and I joyously swung in the late afternoons as the sun set across the Rappahannock River.

"Swing me faster," she would cry out as I stood in the grass pushing the thickly woven tangle of rope.

And suddenly -- "Not so fast, Daddy!" as the hammock tilts toward the horizon.

I found myself alone on the hammock one recent evening, reflecting on the memories we are beginning to create with Thea.

A consultant I know is fond of saying, "When we're on our death bed, no one says, 'Bring me my stuff, I want to touch it all one more time.'" Rather, we want to be surrounded by our memories, our stories, those of our friends and families able to gather near.

All of us leave memories, stories and lives in our wake every day. In our best moments, we are as enriched as the people we touch. At our worst, we fray the edges -- we spill out.

Helping to create new stories for Thea is a deeply rewarding product of the way Nikole and I have decided to parent her.

While we're very intentional about wanting our daughter to experience a life full of relationships and activity, most of what we create with her is driven by her enthusiastic discoveries and the basic business of day-to-day life.

We have a child that loves to do things -- collect bugs and acorns, make puzzles, explore the city's nooks and crannies. She loves her simple, weekend visits with her Omie to play with an oversized, meticulously crafted dollhouse, and weekly excursions with her MeMaw to art class or to get ice cream.

Lately, she's craving stories -- of my first dog, of my dad, of my first day at school. She's reassured that her mother and I have pasts not too dissimilar from her life, and takes simple joy from hearing about our childhoods.

We come full circle.

I watch my daughter live her own, unique reflections of my childhood -- a little richer, a little happier. I watch my shadows grow smaller as her life becomes more fully her own.

"Faster!" and then, "Not so fast!" as summer draws to a close.