My #BeReal guest today is Martin Conterez.
Today Martin tells us a beautiful story about being a father.
I was just talking about how important I feel it is for us to be real for our children. Thank you Martin for participating 🙂
I was walking to the metro with my daughter. Normally we drive home, but circumstances and certain appointments dictate that we take the train home on Fridays. This is a wonderful time of the week for me because it’s one of the rare times that I get her undivided attention. I use the opportunity to talk with her about all the things a father might teach his daughter. Mostly we just talk about her day at school and her feelings. Sometimes we talk about stuff we see along our walk and subsequent trip home. Last Friday was a unique chance to see some very distinct and interesting things. These things brought up conversations that many people might not discuss with a three year old.
Immediately upon exiting the daycare center we were greeted with a protest in front of the Saudi embassy across the street. All she could see was the large number of police cars and protesters, who were chanting loudly in a foreign language. She didn’t understand in the least what was going on. She said, “Oh Daddy, look flashing police lights.” I started to explain that the police were there to ensure that the protest remained peaceful and protect anyone who might be hurt. I told her we would have to go around the large group of people blocking the sidewalk.
“Why?” came the natural response. “Because there are protesters blocking the path.” “What are protesters?” I tried hard to come up with a definition that a three year old could understand. “They are people who are trying to show other people that there is something they don’t like and they want it to change.” “What don’t they like?” I searched and read some of the signs that were being held up. “They don’t like the way Saudi Arabia behaves or how they treat some people.” “Why?” “Because sometimes they are mean to people.” “Why?” “I don’t know, but these people are asking them to be nice.” “So we have to go around?” “Yes.” “Okay.”
Now if you’ve ever had a three year old you know that this is just a very small amount of the “Whys?” that you might get in one day. Quite frankly I’m surprised that she let it end at that. We moved on and came to a crosswalk on a very busy street. There was no signal, but there was a sign that made it very clear that cars were to stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk. I asked her to look both ways as she gripped me with her little hand. Cars began to stop appropriately as we crossed. We were about three-quarters of the way across when a very small convertible came to a screeching halt. We waited ever so briefly before continuing to cross. The man inside the car was balding, in a suit that cost as much as the car, and was sitting next to what was either his daughter or, more likely, a trophy wife.
We walked as quickly as we could, but if you know anything about three year olds you know that they are much shorter than most people and their little legs can only move so fast. It was apparently not fast enough for the man in the convertible. He revved his engine loudly as we squeaked just out of the range of his very small… umm… car. He then proceeded to yell obscenities and peeled out of sight. We were finally safely on the other side of the road and I turned to my daughter and said, “I’m sorry you had to see that.” “Why?” “Because that man was not very nice, and was not setting a very good example of how to behave.” “Was he mean?” “In a way. He said some very not nice things and wasn’t behaving very well.” “Did he drive bad?” “Yes, yes he did. I may not be a very good driver, but I always stop for people in crosswalks and make sure they get across safely.” “Why?” “Because if I don’t I could hurt someone.” “And people would protest?” “Yes, I suppose they might.”
I’m not entirely sure she understood the humor in what she was saying but I got a chuckle out of it all the same. Our last conversation involved a church building that is close to the daycare and is used as an emergency evacuation point in case of disaster. The daycare does regular fire drills where they walk the children over to the church, so all of the kids are quite familiar with this particular church. Everytime we go by it my children are quick to point out “the church.” This church also doubles as a soup kitchen and there is almost always a line of people waiting to get in. I’m not a big fan of churches, or religion in general. I find the ornate buildings they occupy to generally be a waste of resources and space that could be put to better use. This particular day they must have been giving away supplies because the line outside was longer than usual. There was a lot of people. Given the early conversations we had my daughter naturally asked me a question.
“Are they protesters?” “No.” I chuckled. “Those are homeless people and they are trying to get into that church.” “Is there a fire drill?” I laughed a little bit more. “No, they are trying to get help, and that church is helping them.” “Why do they need help?” “I don’t know, but sometimes people aren’t able to help themselves and have to ask others. This church is who they are asking. It’s nice to see a church doing some good.” “Do they always help people?” “This church seems to, but I’m not sure that all churches do. Some have very big spaces that they don’t share with everyone. Some have a lot of money that they don’t do anything with. But this one seems to work hard to help people, and that’s good thing.” “Oh, okay!”
And with that our walk was over, we had reached the metro and she went into her I’m an excited three year old who gets to ride a train mode. The conversations we had earlier were now out of her mind and her focus was on the train, which is a very exciting thing for a three year old.
What does any of this have to do with being real? This is who I am. I am many things. But I am a father first. Being a father is the realest thing that I can do with my life. For me being real means having the awkward and sometimes tough conversations with my daughter. It means having these conversations even while knowing that she probably won’t remember a word of them. But somewhere in the back of her mind she’ll remember the thoughts and feelings we shared together and maybe, just maybe some of that love and compassion will rub off on her. When people see me walking down the street with my daughter they often smile. But sometimes they act like the man in the convertible did. Either way I’d like to think that they don’t see the aging writer that sometimes neglects the truly special things in life, I’d like to think they see the passion I try to share with my children and that they see the love of a father, and that’s what I hope people see in this picture. I think that people would be surprised to learn that in a world where men are mostly celebrated for having powerful jobs, lots of money, and seeding lots of kids they probably don’t treat that well, I am quite envious of those who get to be stay at home dads and spend all day with their children.