August 11, 2008

Conductor on the train of life

It’s another weekday morning and I have quickly descended the stairs after using my allotted 10 minutes to shower, shave and dress before your mother has to finish getting ready for work.

This morning I find you crouched on the ground around your train set, pushing your trains around the little wooden tracks while your sister plays quietly in the room as well. Your mother cleaned the entire room this weekend and you have more room than usual to play and you both are taking advantage of the extra space. I take a seat on the couch to watch you and your sister play and revel in the peace of the morning.

Soon enough, your mother descends herself, kisses her good-byes, and is off to work. Your sister goes off to watch Curious George but you continue to play with your trains. I decide to sit in the silence of the morning and be a fly on your little wall.

Your shaggy mop-top haircut, that looks so cute on you right now, hangs softly from your forehead as you bend down to escort Thomas the Train and his pals through the various trestles and tunnels. Your eyes are intent and focused. You are in another place, imagining yourself being the conductor of your own train, as you expertly guide the train down the sloping tracks towards the station.

I marvel at the way you play, with not a care in the world other than keeping that train on its tracks, and I am slightly envious at this world you live in. You don’t have worries about your job or paying bills or even what you’re going to make for dinner. You just get to be a little boy.

Suddenly, you realize you are being watched and you look up at me and smile. I smile back as I think of what to say. I want to tell you how much I love you and how much I want for you to live a life free of worry and stress. I want to tell you that I work so hard so that you can be a little boy a whole lot longer than I got to be. I want to tell you that my wish is that you never lose that boyish wonder and carefree spirit that exudes joy and confidence in all you do. And, finally, I want to tell you that your Daddy will be here for you – to guide you through life the way that you are guiding that train, so expertly, around its tracks.

But before I can say anything. Before I can verbalize one parent’s dream that his son feel protected and loved for eternity, you speak. “Do you want to play with me, Daddy?” you ask.

My eyes fill briefly with tears and I smile and blink hard. I nod my head and say, “Yes, little man. I do want to play with you.”

I crawl down to your side and you silently hand me the bucket of trains for me to choose my own train. You wait for me to string a few together and then you show me how to guide the trains around the track with the touch of an expert.

And as you make “choo choo” noises and push your train while watching me push mine, you look up at me with your big, brown eyes and smile brightly. And I suddenly realize that I’ve just learned a lot more from you than how to push a train around the tracks.


  1. Reading that makes me feel like going upstairs and waking my girls up so that I can relish even more time with them while they’re so young! (But, of course, I’ll just let them sleep and relish them when they get up instead!)

    You should download the song “Daddy, What’s a Train?” for your kids. It’s by John Denver. I know some people rather eat tacks and gulp lye than have to listen to John Denver, but the song is sweet and might match the sentimental mood you’re in.

    Comment by Lynnie — August 12, 2008 @ 4:14 am

  2. Brilliantly written post, sir. Just brilliant.

    Parenting is not just about what we can teach our kids; it’s about what they can teach us about ourselves.

    Comment by SciFi Dad — August 12, 2008 @ 4:29 am

  3. Being a kid is the best gig in the world.

    Fantasticly written.

    Comment by Ed (zoesdad) — August 12, 2008 @ 8:06 am

  4. It’s amazing, isn’t it? My heart swells just reading your post. Thinking of my own daughter, 3.5 yrs old, inviting me to play from time to time. Imagining my son doing the same when he’s older.

    Beautifully written, and it brought tears to my eyes.
    Thank you.

    Comment by Val — August 12, 2008 @ 8:58 am

  5. I don’t have kids, but that brought tears to my eyes.

    Comment by penny — August 12, 2008 @ 1:41 pm

  6. Aww..

    Comment by Deanna — August 12, 2008 @ 1:44 pm

  7. Exceptionally well-written and touching post that brilliantly defines what it means to be a father.

    Comment by Kevin T. — August 12, 2008 @ 9:37 pm

  8. I remember days down on the floor playing Thomas..:-)

    Comment by mp — August 13, 2008 @ 7:25 am

  9. Matthew, you have an amazing way with words. Beautiful post.

    Comment by Issa — August 13, 2008 @ 3:31 pm

  10. Oh, Matthew, that is really a gorgeous post. Love like that is the kind that can only come after you have a child and no one can explain it to you or give you even a glimpse of what it truly is…but you come really close.

    Comment by Anissa@Hope4Peyton — August 14, 2008 @ 4:18 pm

  11. Came over via Five Star Friday. Hello!
    This brought me to quick tears, too. They really are little Zen masters, and I’m so happy you were present for your lesson.

    Comment by ErinH — August 17, 2008 @ 10:04 am

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