Magic Moments - Shawn Loughlin editorial
Recently, I had the opportunity to reflect on being a father. That likely sounds a bit weird, reflecting on something you just are (like reflecting on being alive), but I just had time to think about all that it means.
Jess and I had a hard day over the weekend. Tallulah is at a weird time in her life, with less than a month until she turns one. She is active and mobile, but not as active and mobile as she’d like. She’s teething and sleeping less, making her a little grumpier than usual at times. Days like those are long for both Jess and Tallulah, which hits Jess with a second punch, as she’s worn down, but feeling bad for her daughter who is similarly worn down.
I could tell Jess needed a few minutes to herself on Sunday, so I took Tallulah into our backyard, which always seems to calm her down. There, we ducked under the leaves of our little tree (likely only a few years old when we bought the house in 2015) and Tallulah’s eyes widened as we surrounded ourselves with leaves. She reached out to touch them, looking in wonder as the wind whistled through, causing the leaves to rustle around us. She would look at me and then back to the leaves around her, wondering where we were and what we were doing there.
It felt like a magical moment for me; one that I’d always remember. Because I felt that wonder too. Helping Tallulah to engage with the nature around her is fun, but experiencing the world through her eyes is fascinating. And I know I’m far from the first person to write about this, but it also made me think about just how amazing it is that Jess and I were able to create a little, beautiful person like Tallulah.
I recently watched The Tree of Life, the 2011 Terrence Malick movie. It’s all about the cycle of life, full of striking images and vignettes of life. One that stuck with me was when parents played by Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain have their first child and, minutes after the baby is born, Pitt holds one of his little feet in his big, grown-man hands, looking at it like his brain couldn’t comprehend something so amazing.
I have been struck by the profound nature of those moments in this first 11 months of being a father. Of course there will be birthdays, first steps and other milestones, but those softer, unexpected moments have taught me to appreciate what it means to have a child.
As most of you know, I wear glasses; thick, Elvis Costello-like Ray Ban frames. For a while, Tallulah liked grabbing at them trying to pull them off of my face (the first time she did, she looked mortified, like she’d “broken” her father). So, while holding her, I started taking them off. All of a sudden, when she could stare into my eyes (which look eerily similar to hers) you could see her experiencing something new for the first time and it’s really magical to be part of that.
She is learning all the time and so are we. She also helps us realize all there is to appreciate about the world around us as she takes it in for the first time.
Being a parent, I’m learning, is hard work. It’s often thankless, it’s relentless and it’s not helped by a pandemic (though one could argue that staying home and limiting contact and travel could be a protective, first-time parent’s dream). At the same time, it’s wondrous and invigorating and full of moments that redefine - for me, at least - what it means to be alive and a member of this world.
The trick, I suppose, is to identify those moments in time and appreciate them for what they are in the moment. Tallulah and I being under our tree doesn’t happen every day, but maybe it will if I look hard enough.