I stand ankle deep in the Pacific Ocean. Kate’s entire 19 pounds rests on my hip. Abby, already my Big Girl at three, clutches my hand, and jumps up and down in the water.
“Joshua Giraffe,” she sings, “Joshua, Joshua! Joshua Giraffe!”
We’ve been standing here for an hour, and every time I think about leaving I look down at the grin on her face, and I realize all over again that I can’t. There are plenty of times that I have to tell my daughter no, and I do it, but I don’t prefer it. So I watch the waves as they roll in, and I sing Joshua Giraffe, and I jump and splash. There’s a steady stream of foot traffic here. Men and women, young and old, walking or running, throwing balls or frisbee’s, but we’ve created our own world. We’ve carved out our own small nation, and we are not concerned with the affairs of our neighbors.
“Another big one, daddy!” she says. She squeals. And then she starts jumping again, as the blue-green wave breaks five feet from us.
It comes in fast, splashing up to her waist, almost knocking her down. Her grip on my hand tightens as the spray from the wave hits her face. She staggers back a step and I feel her begin to turn. Her face has gone from beaming grin to unsure in the blink of an eye. She steps further back, making as if to run out of the wave.
“Is that all?” I yell, at the ocean. I grin at my daughter, and her smile blooms, spreading across her face like a new dawn.
“Jump.” I whisper, and the smile on her face turns into a grin.
“Joshua Giraffe!” she sings, at the top of her lungs, as she begins to splash and jump in the waist high water. I hold on tight.
“I don’t want you to do it because you’re not afraid,” I say, “I want you to do it even though you’re afraid.”
Maybe it’s too early for this kind of message. Her answer was noncommittal, and she was back to Joshua Giraffe in no time. I can’t help wondering if I’m wasting my breath. Maybe these important things, these truths, are falling on ears that aren’t prepared to accept what I consider wisdom.
Then again…What if it’s not too early? What if it sticks? I don’t want to miss a chance to tell her the important things. I don’t want a miss a single opportunity to prepare her, to teach her courage and what it means to be brave, to encourage in her the traits I already see beginning to grow.
I’m okay with the risk of wasting words. It’s better than the risk of not saying everything.