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The joy of being a father: Summer days

Shamiel Gary
February 22, 2021

It’s a warm day in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I’m savoring every moment of it, as the past couple of weeks have been nothing but miserable weather. On a day like this, a father can’t help but take his daughter to the park. As I load Dri into the car, I notice the excitement in her eyes, the kind of excitement only a child has for something as small as the park. We began our adventure at Quick Trip, not for gas but for apple juice, crackers and a snickers bar… not the best meal, but just the kind of fuel my baby girl needs to play hard and have a great day at the park. As we approach the park, I realize her excitement has rubbed off on me. I get eager to watch her go and go like a NASCAR driver who only stops for fuel to continue racing.

As soon as we get to the park, she jumps out of the car and darts to the playground, leaving me in the dust. All I saw was her butt and elbows because she was rolling! I don’t mind slowly trailing behind, because there is nothing more pure than seeing your child full of enthusiasm. After setting the snacks down on the table, we begin to play as if it were the last time. After all, you never know with Oklahoma’s bipolar weather. We swing from the monkey bars! We sprint up the spiral stairs! We race down the slides! We play tag! Did I mention the slides? Despite her energy far exceeding mine, every bump, bruise and ache is worth seeing the pure joy in my baby girl.  

Pooped from all the fun we we’re having, I decide to sit down. Dri continued to jump, run, and fall, all in that order. I was down for the count until it was time to go. As I watch her four-year-old self having a blast, it takes me down memory lane. I realize I need to enjoy each moment. Time is speeding by no matter how many times I put my hand up telling it to stop. I see her hair flowing in the air as she runs around the playground, her chunky cheeks bouncing up and down as she jumps from one thing to next. She is living free, not caring what the other kids or parents think of her. I think to myself, that is what life is about.

Watching Dri, reminds of when I was a kid living carefree and with such enthusiasm. When did we all lose this innocence and zeal for life—this freedom Dri and every other kid lives their life with? As I contemplate Dri and her enthusiasm at the playground, I realize that the majority of adults are walking around jaded and drained. For all of my fellow parents, most of us walk around like the Bergens in Trolls, miserable and jealous of others’ happiness. Kids, like the trolls, live their life in color. Obviously, Dri and I watch this movie too much, but that is beside the point.

We all had this innocence, zest, and freedom in our lives at one point. We got older and parents taught boys the acceptable way to express their feelings. They taught girls the acceptable way to act. You get to middle school and you start comparing what you look like, what you’re wearing, your parents, and the list goes on. We have isolated incidents in our lives that scar us externally as well as internally. We let society, friends, and family dictate who we should be, how we should think and what we should do in order to be happy. Throughout this process we call life, we lose our zeal, innocence, and freedom (Z.I.F.). The Z.I.F. we once had as a child.

As I sit on this bench watching my enthusiastic, care-free daughter run around the playground, I realize I need her zeal for life, her innocence, and her freedom. Regardless of how old you get, you can’t allow life to suck away your Z.I.F. Don’t let yourself become invisible because you are being, doing, and thinking like someone else. Today, stop walking around like the Bergens and get your color back! Live a life that makes you happy, makes you want to scream, and makes you want to laugh regardless of who is around!

For the next seven days, I challenge you to be intentional about living a Z.I.F. life.

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