In the Saturday Japanese school my daughter goes to, there are 4-5 families that mine has been particularly close to. With some families relocating and what not, faces have slowly changed over time, but some of us go all the way back to when my daughter was a baby.
Over the memorial day weekend, the group went to an overnight camping together. It’s one of those camps where we all show up with loads of gears, food, and drinks in our cars. Adults would indulge in non-stop eating and conversation around a camp fire, while kids disappear into the nature and enjoy themselves.
The next morning I woke up and my daughter wants me to see a project she and her younger friends built together in a creek nearby. Cool, I guess that’s what they were working on when I didn’t see them. I’ve followed them upstream to a make-shift dam made by rocks. It’s only partially completed — perhaps a few meters from a bank. Satisfied with my wow-ing and ohh-ing, they resumed their project, picking stones and dropping them into the creek, taking turns, self-organized. I aimed my camera in the hope of taking some pictures of their joyful expressions.
That’s when I understood. It just came to me like that.
See, my daughter is right in the middle of teenage years, where they struggle and worry to figure out what’s their passion. My frame of reference, namely how I grew up, is completely useless here because I just run into computers in the 7th grade, I got hooked, and the rest is history. Like countless other parents, naturally this has been at the top of our mind; Exposing her to various extra curricular activities, from astronomy to performing arts; Cutting back to make time & space that she can use to explore and find her passion freely. Somewhere in the back of my mind I knew I was worried too much, but how can you not, when the stake is so high? I didn’t want her to just assemble a LEGO set I bought her. I wanted her to assemble something on her own out of the LEGO bin. That’s so important to me that’s the meaning of her name I gave her.
Well, guess what, while I was having fun with beer in my hand, fiddling with a camp fire with my friends, she explored the creek a lot further out than I thought, took care of younger kids, somehow latched on to the idea of building a dam, and put that into action. I didn’t suggest any of that to her. She did it all on her own.
Seeing her creating something passionately, not just consuming what’s given to her, was such a tremendous relief. I mean, look at her happy face and you will see. She is perfectly capable of finding something she wants to do. I don’t know what that’s going to be in the real life, but I just felt so confident that she will be fine. As parents, I and my wife were watering and fertilizing this little plant every day hoping that some day it will grow into a beautiful flower, whatever color that might be, always worrying that it has too few leaves, or too many leaves. But maybe parenting is more like where we think this plant will bloom into a flower, then discover that the soil turns into a clay and the clay turns into a beautiful flower vase. One giant sequence of beautiful unintended consequences.
When I look at it like that, my heart is filled with deep, deep appreciations to so many.
First and the foremost, my wife. Throughout this post, I said “we” like I played the equal part, but let’s be honest, I was mostly doing just talking and thinking. It is my wife who has been doing almost all the doing, while I was flying around the world pursuing my own passion. Unintended consequence doesn’t mean you can skip parenting. It is her 15 years of constant watering and feeding that created enough mass that allows this little plant to turn into something. And only I get to watch and appreciate that never-ending devotion. I just hope a similar lightning strikes her and relieves her from the fear and the pressure.
Then there are people of the group. They got me hooked into camping in the first place, which led to this moment, and they keep on giving. Activities to my daughter that her parents wouldn’t have thought of themselves is one but that’s not the only thing. They provide her compliments, push her further, teach her fishing, and otherwise interact with her in their own unique ways. I don’t have any real extended family, certainly not on this side of the Pacific ocean, but I just realized these people are practically my big extended family. And they don’t know what it means to me. What a wonderful bunch of folks they are.
I’m surrounded by amazing people. And it’s wonderful to be aware of that. This is a day that I’m going to remember.