Recently my wife and I packed our son Kyler and our dog Duma into the car and drove to the lake by our house. The weather has been getting cooler so we are trying to take advantage of the outdoors (and our dog’s walks have been neglected lately). Kyler, like many babies, falls asleep in the car, so when we got to the park we just lifted his car seat onto our stroller, Kyler snoring the whole time, and set out on our walk. It was a beautiful day and after a busy week, exactly what Lauren and I needed to reconnect.
After walking for about a mile, we noticed two little feet wiggling and moved the shade back to discover a smiling baby. Kyler loves the outdoors. He stares and giggles at the trees, furrows his little eyebrows as he studies the sky, and loves watching his mommy and daddy smiling back at him as we walk through the cool autumn breeze. Of course, the conversation we were having immediately ended and our attention was given to our baby.
As we got closer to our car, we noticed Kyler’s bottom lip starting to stick out. His smile slowly shifted and his shrieks of joy turned into the fussy realization that he was still tired and getting hungry. We were still about a quarter of a mile away from our car, so Lauren and I began to do what any loving parents would do in that situation. We sang the ABC song.
I had a dream that my son would come out of the womb loving Radiohead and Wilco, but as it turns out, his favorite song is not “Muzzle of Bees” or “Paranoid Android”, it’s the ABC song. The moment he heard us singing it, he forgot how tired and hungry he was, and his smile immediately returned. We spent the rest of the walk singing, smiling, doing hand motions, and laughing as we saw Kyler delightfully intrigued by the simple melody of the alphabet song.
It didn’t occur to me until we were packing everything and everybody back into our car that we weren’t the only people at the lake that day. The lake we were walking around has a lot of bikers and runners. They most certainly could hear Lauren and I singing the ABC song over and over and over again. So as I strapped Kyler into the car and started folding up the stroller, I realized that Lauren and I had just become the laughing stock of the lake that evening. I’m quite sure that everyone who went by us that evening was convinced we were losing our minds. The jogger probably got home and looked to see if there had been any recent escapees from the asylum. But at the time, we didn’t care.
I think one of the indicators of how much you love someone is how willing you are to make an idiot of yourself for their delight. I’m sure that this won’t be the last time Lauren and I become public spectacles for the sake of seeing our children smile. There are so many instances where parents will squelch their children’s joy and creativity because they don’t want to be embarrassed. If our standing in the eyes of our peers is more important than the freedom for our children to be kids, we will crush them.
God could very well have become embarrassed with us. He could have looked down on us and hushed us, or yelled at us, or ignored us. But instead he humbled himself, made himself to be a public spectacle so that we could have joy. That is the kind of love we need to show as parents.
So here is to hand motions and the alphabet songs in public places!
(The pictures don’t necessary go along with the story, but I didn’t think anyone would complain.)