You wanted to see the polar bear but there were too many people. I should have thought twice about taking you to the zoo on what was probably going to be the last, beautiful fall Saturday of the year. Soon the rains would come and pull the leaves from the trees, and leave them to be buried underneath the snows of winter. But there we were behind a throng of squished humans, shoulder to shoulder, hip to hip, standing in front of the window where, I assume, a polar bear was staring back.
"Daddy, can I go see the polar bear?"
"It looks pretty crowded, honey. I don’t know if we’ll be able to get up to the window."
"I can do it."
And with that you let go of my hand and darted towards the back of the crowd. I thought about reaching for you, calling out and explaining that we could wait a few minutes and the crowd might clear, but instead I looked at your brother sleeping in his stroller and thought at him, "Let’s see what she can do."
And oh boy, did you do it. You approached the back of the crowd and began to weave. You looked up at the strangers towering over you and smiled. You said “excuse me,” side stepped, pivoted, turned, waived at me, and disappeared into the crowd. Every few second I would arch and stretch my neck to try and catch a glimpse of your wild blonde hair popping in and out of the lower half of the group, and every time I saw you your smile was bigger. You were absolutely fearless with your kindness.
You were out of site for what was probably 10 seconds, but felt more like a minute. I started to get that tiny feeling in my stomach. It’s the same one I get at the park when my eyes dart over to where I assume you will be, and suddenly you’re not. Then I look frantically around until I eventually find you sitting on top of some part of the playground I never would imagine you could get to. This time, as I looked left and right, your tiny confident body wasn't coming into frame, and I could feel the panic start to rise in my chest. That is, until your blonde mop popped up and out of the crowd at the window. You had made it. For a moment the sea of people parted and I saw you so completely, hand against the glass, staring into the white bear’s eyes. You waved at him, turned, and ran back to my hand.
"I said hi to the polar bear, Daddy!"
"I saw that. Good job, kiddo."
You hugged my thigh and I held your head close, running my fingers through your hair that barely reached where my hand naturally hung.
There are so many things I want for you, kid. I want you to be happy, and independent, and strong. I want you to be confident and kind. I want the world to bend in your direction like a flower does to the sun. In the months before you were born I was convinced that it was my job as a parent to give you those things, as if they were gems I could pull from my pocket and leave on your nightstand. But daughter, you make it more and more apparent every day that the things I want for you, you already have. Now I just have to figure out how to keep the world from taking them away. And that scares the living hell out of me.
Don't forget to like the Ask Your Dad Facebook Page. We have a lot of fun over there, and there is never a wait to see the polar bear.