Playing Candy Land and Feeding the Birds: What I’ve Learned about Fatherhood.

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I am so excited to feature my first guest poster!  This guy has been one of my favorite writers for a very long time.  He is smart, witty, and has a wonderful way with words.  He also happens to be my big bro.  So a giant thank you to Jonathan Hart for writing this great piece on fatherhood and for letting me share it here!

Let me begin by admitting something — I’m neurotic. Or I can be at least about certain things and in certain situations. But honestly, it’s not as bad as it used to be. I think I’m mellowing with age. When I was in graduate school I had a good friend named Scott. One morning Scott did not come to class. I was surprised — he lived just a few houses away from me so I figured if he had been sick or something he would have let me know, asked me to let him know what he had missed in class, or something like that. I ran into him later that morning and asked him where he had been. He replied that his son, Ethan, had wanted to play Candy Land that morning and after they played a round, and it was time for Scott to leave for class, his son had asked to play again. So Scott decided to skip class to spend time with his son and play a few more rounds with him. Scott may as well have been speaking a foreign language when he told me this because I just didn’t understand. Sure, I’m all about quality family time…when it’s on the schedule and at the appropriate time and all that good stuff. But to miss class for an extra round or two of Candy Land? My neurotic mind just couldn’t compute that.

Well, as I said, I’ve mellowed with age. My kids now love playing a lot of games. I do too, for the most part. But there are times when Ivey asks for one more round of Skipbo and Dallin wants ten more minutes of playing Legos and Camden just wants to play catch. And sometimes I just don’t want to play anymore. But I (often) smile and (usually) do it. It takes all of five or ten minutes.

And that leads in to the second part of this post. I am pretty darn fond of the show Mary Poppins. It isn’t about a practically perfect nanny and the adventures she has with the Banks children. It’s about fatherhood (the movie Saving Mr. Banks really drives home that point). And man, there are some good lessons in there. Tops for me is what the song Feed the Birds teaches about fatherhood. It is probably one of my all time favorite songs — the beauty of the melody and the power of the message both really move me. Feed the birds, tuppence a bag. Tuppence is a very small amount of money, and the bags are just bread crumbs. But those small tokens are all it takes to feed the birds…to give them what they need…to provide sustenance and support. And that is what playing one more round of Skipbo is…it is but mere tuppence. I literally think these words in my head when I have to put on that smile, shuffle those cards, and spend another ten minutes playing. Ten minutes. Tuppence.

Early each day to the steps of Saint Paul’s
The little old bird woman comes
In her own special way to the people she calls
Come, buy my bags full of crumbs

Come feed the little birds, show them you care
And you’ll be glad if you do
Their young ones are hungry
Their nests are so bare
All it takes is tuppence from you

Feed the birds, tuppence a bag,
Tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag
Feed the birds that’s what she cries
While overhead, her birds fill the skies

All around the cathedral the saints and apostles
Look down as she sells her wares
Although you can’t see it, you know they are smiling
Each time someone shows that he cares

Though her words are simple and few
Listen, listen, she’s calling to you
Feed the birds, tuppence a bag
Tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag

I don’t stay in touch much with Scott these days. We graduated eight years ago and have gone our separate ways. We trade Christmas cards each year, but that’s about it. However, last year I decided to email Scott and remind him of this Candy Land experience and what it taught me. It’s been almost a decade and it’s still a big life lesson for me. Scott responded to my email saying he didn’t remember it at all, though he was grateful it had had an impact on me. His exact words were, “ it’s funny … I certainly don’t remember this happening, but I also don’t doubt it stressing you out at the time. :)” It may be cliche, but I guess you never realize what seemingly small actions you take can impact others. Mere tuppence a bag.

Luckily we all have the opportunity to grow and change. If I can change (and trust me, being neurotic is not something that changes easily…it’s kinda baked in) I think we all have the potential for meaningful change.

Do yourself a favor and listen to Feed the Birds and think about it.

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