It was around 4 a.m. when I first realized that my bedside water glass was also the cat bowl. This, despite the fact that there are two cups designated as feline fountains not 10 feet away, not to mention an open toilet that doubles up in a pinch. No, the cat chose my glass, joining us forever at the fur-lined lip, and I suddenly understood my constant desire to nap in the sunlight.
Things like this happen to all of us, the repurposing of life and the plans we have for it. Everything is in flux. Everyone is going somewhere. Few things go the way we hoped they would, and often for the better.
For instance, I never considered using a can of scented room freshener as a body spray. I am actually a bit embarrassed by this, because it is genius. Granted, I have Febrezed my whole body running late out the door and I have splashed enough cologne on the shirt I slept in to choke half of Paris, but it never dawned on me to think outside the can.
My son, however, smells of cinnamon apples, lavender and juniper (but not in a gin-soaked way), and his aroma changes with the season. During the holidays he is sweet spice and pumpkin, and now, on the cusp of spring, he is all lime tarts and sunshine. He wears it like a second coat and you will always smell him coming.
To be clear, this is not something that we officially encourage. In fact, he has been told to stop on several occasions. I haven’t done the research, but I’m guessing that room freshener isn’t supposed to come into regular contact with human skin. Also, that stuff is expensive. Still, we live in California and there’s a drought—that’s his case against bath time. It’s pretty sound.
The point is, everyone sees the world through their own lens, our kids included, and we can either fog it over with so much hot air or we can make ourselves readily available to shine light as needed, offering what we can in way of focus.
The kids will return the favor. It is their responsibility to be somewhat irresponsible. They have license to challenge the status quo, to ask why as many times as possible, and to remind us of the fun we used to have. They find focus in the blurriest of places, and sometimes we only need squint to see it.
Fun fact, the older we get the less likely we are to accept change. We have spent years defining our vision and molding our own understanding, and when we set a glass of water on our nightstand we expect that it won’t be contaminated in the night by tuna breath and hairballs. When we buy a can of room freshener we anticipate a house full of gentle wafts, not a note from the school saying our child reeks of cherry blossoms and sandalwood.
Life seldom goes as planned, and that is what makes it so interesting. It is easy to get upset when children don’t follow the unspoken rules of life, that’s the quick fix and the default setting for many of us, myself included. I grew up being rebuked by rote and now, as a father, I pay it forward, one careless word at a time. Everyone is paying something.
This is where I struggle, real time reactions versus the perspective of hindsight. It is a struggle that I like to think I am winning. I understand all too well that few things matter as much as we think they do, and that when I reprimand creativity I am also crushing it.
We only get so many takes, and I am doing my best to take every single one of them.
There may be whiskers in the water and all breaths are deep with lemon and pine, but the lens is mine for the looking and life is filled with wonders to behold, like the scene of my children laughing long and always playing. The world is as lovely as we make it, short of time and full of focus.
The moments matter because they happen.