This afternoon Samuel and I went on a walk while Ali took a much-needed nap. All bundled up and armed with Sophie, the world’s most famous rubber giraffe, in one pocket and a pacifier in the other, we strolled out into the crisp Fall afternoon. I tried to explain to Samuel why the leaves on the trees were all changing colors, but he seemed more interested in chewing on the straps of the baby carrier. Oh well. I tried.
On the other side of campus a group of Seminary students were just beginning to play ultimate Frisbee. I stood on the sideline and watched them play as I unconsciously bounced back and forth to keep Samuel from fussing. I was not a sub waiting my turn to get into the game. I was not an injured teammate cheering on my team. For the first time in my life I just wasn’t playing. I was just an observer.
It was a difficult reality to swallow. I felt my fingers twitch whenever the disk was tossed into the air. My legs ached but not from being a part of the action. It was the slow ache of walking around for an hour with a 20-pound baby strapped to your chest.
I hear people say regularly that being a parent means you learn to be selfless. I always nod my head, because I figure that is the appropriate thing to do, but in the back of my mind I wonder what in the world being “selfless” really looks like. Strangely, as I stood there swaying back and forth humming Baby Balooga, it hit me. Being selfless meant not playing ultimate Frisbee.
Being a dad meant that I was confined to the sidelines against my will. It didn’t matter that Frisbee is one of my favorite activities. It didn’t matter that I thought I could help the losing team if I could find a way to get out onto the field. Being selfless meant that I was reduced to talking with the subs as they sucked wind for a few minutes after running around at full-speed.
I have always thought of being selfless in terms of all the things that I do for my son like change his diapers and fold his miniature clothing. Today, I realized there is more to it. Selflessness also involves the things we no longer get to do. Selflessness requires a letting go of life as it used to be, but man that is hard. I struggle to let go of something as simple and insignificant as ultimate Frisbee.
As I stood there I was faced with the choice to be miserable or look at the bigger picture. I am a part of a different team playing a much more important game. The 6 month-old baby with the chubby cheeks kicking his feet and wriggling all around is my teammate. I have been given an amazing opportunity, one that not everybody gets. I could easily squander the beauty of the gift that I have been blessed with through my selfishness rather than enjoy the blessing of fatherhood.
I have a feeling there are plenty more ultimate Frisbee moments in my future. There will be oodles of battles between selfishness and selflessness, and I’m sure that selflessness is not going to win them all. Heck, selflessness might not even win the majority, but I’m learning.