Learning About True Love Through My Toddler's Eyes
NOTE: This post was originally shared on Valentine's Day of 2017
For as long as I can remember, I have been captivated by the idea of love. How people find love, fall in love, stay in love, love their families....it doesn't really matter. My heart and my emotions have forever been tattooed on my sleeve for all to see, in good times and bad, and love has long been the centerpiece of that artwork.
On a day like today (however crafted and commercial you may feel Valentine's Day has become with the price of fancy dinners and roses marked up 100%, battling to find just the right greeting card the night of February 13th with all the other knuckleheads who waited until the last minute & bitter single people everywhere staging their protests across social media), I cannot help but be thankful for love. Love for my wife who stands by me and chooses to love me even on my worst days, love for my family who in spite of our differences will always care about each other unconditionally, love for my job and the relationships I get to build with my players & students each and every day, and love for my friends who have truly made me who I am over the years.
All of those are amazing by themselves or on the whole but, over the past two years, I have been schooled in a very different kind of love thanks to my most important role/job/responsibility ever....being a parent.
February 2, 2015 marked a day I had always looked forward to & will never forget, when Carter Jamison Bricker entered the world, much to his Mom and my overwhelming joy and anticipation. To say we had waited a long time, often impatiently, is an understatement and through the exhaustion, stress, nervousness and so much more we welcomed him with open arms. Those of you who are parents can attest to the fact that nothing compares to that moment when you first lay eyes on your son or daughter and, in that moment, your lives are changed forever. In that very instant...love, that short but far from simple word, takes on a whole new meaning.
I'll be honest, due to my aforementioned emotional tendencies, I have tremendous passion for many things: I love my sports teams and cannot stand it when they lose, I love playing basketball, golf & just about every sport there is, I love the smell of a well prepared meal and the sound of company laughing aloud as they enjoy the food, and I love music and the way it pulls people together. But truly, those pale in comparison to how much I have grown to love being a Dad!
But even the love of being a parent, which I have at times been overwhelmed by in the last 730+ days, has recently been overtaken in the polls by my amazement at the love Carter J has for the world around him. And it has given me a new perspective I never dreamed I would have....to see each experience as not just a singular event, but an amazing connection of new and old experiences which I've seen over and over in how Carter J finds true love for living each and every moment to its fullest. I have truly been changed by experiencing the world through my toddler's eyes.
Last week, Carter J turned 2 and I am 100% convinced he has this whole loving life thing completely figured out. Not in the Doogie Howser, my kid is the smartest kid ever, kind of way, but more in terms of how he lives each day. I know he is inevitably going to lose this innocence at some point, but for now I am going to enjoy every second of it...allow me to explain:
He appreciates and is amazed by the simplest things in life. Certainly much of this can be attached to the limited development of his brain but let's not concern ourselves with that right now. Every time a construction truck, trash truck or really any kind of truck drives by, his excitement cannot be contained. In fact, for his birthday party this past weekend, we had a trash truck come to the house for all the kids to sit in and Carter was beside himself. The simple things in life still capture his attention & keep him entertained daily.
At least once a day or more, I watch him be completely captivated by a book, a TV show, a toy or even in people as we walk around a mall, and I cannot help but wonder what he is thinking. He's not consumed by a to-do list or paying bills or any responsibility at all, really. He just works so hard to take everything in, all the while being amazed at the experience. A couple weeks ago we were on the same beach in Oceanside where I grew up & Carter must have stood still on the sand staring at the crashing waves for close to 5 minutes which, in toddler time, is like 10 years. His awe & wonder for the world is awesome and I so want him to always be amazed & curious!
He loves people and will say hello and give a high five to just about everyone he meets..after the initial awkward toddler hesitancy where he tries to figure out if you are "ok" to talk to. He will often be bouncing across the living room, moving from one activity to the next, when he randomly stops to look at us and say, "Hi Mama....Hi Dada!" He's yet to figure out that most people in this world have forgotten the power and impact a simple hello and a smile can have on another person and I hope he always remembers to smile & say hello.
He has zero trouble expressing his frustration & anger and he almost never holds back. While this often causes his parents to resist the temptation to scream out loud in return and also encourages more frequent trips to the wine and beer aisles of the grocery store, I appreciate that he feels comfortable to always tell us exactly how he feels. Too often as adults we hold back and don't find the appropriate way to share our thoughts and feeling with those around us. Not saying we should all throw ourselves on the floor crying, kicking and screaming when we don't get our way...but maybe there is a comfortable middle of the road option.
He absolutely dances like nobody is watching! Neither of his parents have a musical bone in their bodies in terms of true talent, but we both do have a true love for music that Carter J has also displayed in the past couple years. Anytime a good song comes on (especially Can't Stop the Feeling by JT), Carter stops on a dime and starts shaking his stuff for all to see. He couldn't care less that some people are staring at him, a few in appreciation and a few I am sure judging him for being off beat, and I really wish more of us were that way. Let's just do what moves us and as long as it doesn't hurt or directly affect anyone around us, let's do it whenever our hearts tell us it's time! :)
So this Valentine's Day, amidst all the red and romance with your significant other...I hope we can all take some time to appreciate our love for life. Appreciate the small things that put a smile on your face, be amazed by the world around you, smile and say hello to a few complete strangers, express your emotions without filter, and maybe most important...dance like nobody is watching!
Carter J...thanks for teaching me all of these lessons and so many more on a daily basis. Know that I am so proud to be your Dad and that I love our relationship more and more each day. You're the best buddy!