To the passenger who noticed my tween son give me a kiss before boarding,I sincerely appreciate your bold assessment of my luck. I am a pretty lucky guy.
But I want you and everyone else who saw my 11-year-old son giving me a kiss to know that what you saw is not the product of mystical and ever-elusive fortune. It was the result of the longest and most difficult journey of my life.
That tender moment you witnessed was born from years of sacrifice, sleepless nights, early mornings, and thousands of miles of carpool.
It was the culmination of working four jobs, so that I could provide them with more opportunity than I had.
The scene at which you marveled occurred because, even as I worked those four jobs, I dedicated meaningful time to be mindfully present, on purpose and free from distraction. My kids didn’t always need my attention, but I made sure they knew it was there for them when they did.
My son’s ovation, which elicited your marvel and wonder, was influenced by a sincere desire to not only tell my kids I love them, but also to demonstrate my love through action and an unwavering commitment to earn their affection throughout the tenure of their fleeting childhoods, each possessing a seemingly unstoppable momentum.
That public display of affection you found endearing enough to warrant public comment was the result of no less than 24 years of trying, failing, learning, and then summoning the guts to face my failures so that I might try again until I finally got it right.
Every midnight feeding, diaper blowout, teething scream, mid-store tantrum, scraped knee, trip down the slide, and belly flop at the lake;
Each time I read the same ridiculously long bedtime story for the 46th time before tucking them in and, of course, one last drink of water;
All the nighttime and weekend trips to the urgent care only to be told it’s viral;
Every nervous drop-off at the first day of school, every field trip with 30 other families’ kids, and every midweek band concert after an already grueling day;
The sum total of all the nighttime trips to a store to pick up something of entirely questionable necessity, the weekly music lessons, and the occasional hero’s quest to rescue a stuffy or blanket left behind in the shopping cart at Target;
Those were the seemingly trivial moments where I saw a choice between checking out and showing up.
Those were the times where the easy way out may have been to simply ask someone else or refuse to do it at all.
Those were the occasions where something else likely seemed much more important at the time.
But those were the moments I showed up. Those were the times I recognized that the easy way out was not the right thing to do. And those were the occasions I somehow ignored that something else of higher priority.
Those were the stones I carefully placed so I could provide a foundation to support and earn that stolen kiss you found so quaint.
At the age of 11, the fact that my son doesn’t think twice about planting a smooch on his old man in public, knowing you and everyone else can see him do it, makes me feel pretty great, but it’s only a lone ice crystal atop a much larger proverbial iceberg.
I’m grateful you were there to see it, and I hope you read this. Moments like these happen all around us, but to take them for granted as a curiosity defiant of typicality is to dismiss the sacrifices the led up to that moment.
Sure, my son still kisses me in public, and I’m good with that, but more to the point, I’m going to keep trying to earn that affection as long as I can.
Photo: Getty Images