It was an unusual weekend. A weekend that my wife attended a retreat away from home, which means I’m alone with my three children: aged 4, 2, and 1. Now some of you might immediately have this picture in your head: a TV tuned to Nick Jr., the 2 year old climbing and falling off of the table, and the 1 year old eating dirt she picked up from the ground while the family dog chewed one of the 4 year old toys to bits, whom by this time is screaming on top of her lungs yelling for help. And to be honest that’s the kind of picture I painted in my head, and I was determined to not turn this into reality. So I challenged myself to bring some “fun” to the weekend while avoiding a call to my mother-in-law to come in to help, or the trip to the ER.
My original plan called for everyone in the van, and go for a daylong adventure. I don’t need to spend much if at all, I’ve proved that last time when I was alone with the three of them by visiting several scenic overlook off the highway. Logistically it makes a lot of sense – just find a park or next to empty picnic spot and let the kids run wild while I put the 1 year old in my baby wrap, somewhere far enough away that they will all fall asleep on the ride back. But Mother Nature had a different idea. Rain and strong wind was the forecast for the day, so I was pretty sure the outdoor adventure was no longer an option.
Why not do a Target store run? I do need some stuff there and last I recall they have these double-seat shopping carts that the two older ones like to ride in. The trip was uneventful, until I stopped at the Starbucks in the store for a cup of coffee… That’s when the lady, a mother of two, waiting in line behind me, tapped my shoulder and loudly proclaimed:
“I just want to let you know that you are my hero. I have two kids myself and I don’t even want to take them out by myself, and here you are with three … alone. You are awesome.”
I’m not going to lie, the reason why I remembered every word of it so well was because that made me feel pretty awesome and prideful. Darn right I am a hero! Super dad over here, come invite me to your small group for a “dad of the year” speech, and I’d prefer the trophy you are going to present me to be at least a feet tall and gold plated, so I can buy a glass display case at the entrance of my house just to show how awesome I am everyday, and remind everyone who come to house that I am that dad everyone wants to cheer on.
Then as I exit the store, the lady’s husband, who was holding the cart waiting for her, yelled out again “You’re my hero!” I promise I didn’t make this up, he said it not once, but twice… My ego meter probably broke the scale that morning, because that was a pretty special feeling.
If you are still reading at this point instead of clicking the close window button because you just can’t stand my ego trip anymore, you’re probably expecting a “but”. So here it is. Their proclamation bothered me a bit. It bothered me because I honestly wasn’t expecting it. It’s just a normal thing many dads will do, and I’m sure millions of dads out there can handle more kids than I can (yes, three is pretty much the max I want to handle), not to mention millions others who has less fortunate circumstances than I am handling their situation like total bosses. After-all a dad loading three kids into a minivan going to Target then Starbucks being called a hero is totally a first world problem. So truth be told, it’s nothing special, but yet it was to that family. I was special to them because I am doing something they can’t fathom the thought of doing themselves, it’s not because they are incapable, but simply because they didn’t think they can. But guess what? They can.
And whatever in your mind that you don’t think you can, I challenge you to think again. I’m not suggesting you to jump off the cliff and expect to start flying like an eagle because you just read it here that you think you can, and therefore you can. I’m talking more about that mental ceiling you think you can’t break through, yet you see other seemingly ordinary people doing it. Those, I suspect, are something that you can challenge yourself to breakthrough, and go for it. Then being called a hero yourself by others who think you are pretty special. Because in the end, I would argue there’s a hero in all of us.
So, to the couple at Starbucks, you can … because I did. And when you do, you just became a hero for someone, at least to me, because you broke through a ceiling and turning what you think to be impossible, and make it possible.