“Don’t Let Them Down”
Last Summer my wife and I toured the art galleries of Santa Fe, New Mexico. I must admit, most of what what I saw there was a bit beyond me. Please don’t think me simple. If you had seen some of this stuff, you’d say the same thing.
But there was one sculpture that captivated me. It was a bronze piece by an artist named Mackenzie Thorpe. In most of the Thorpe sculptures and paintings scattered throughout the gallery, all the children had very large heads, while the adults had rather small heads. This, according to the extremely well-dressed metro-sexual greeting us that day, was no accident. It seems that Thorpe believes that our capacity for learning, for thought, is at its greatest when we are young. As we grow older, that capacity diminishes.
It was after that explanation that I saw the bronze statue titled “Don’t Let Them Down.” The man in the statue does in fact have a rather small head. However, his feet (or should I say his shoes) are extremely large. In addition to trying to fill these extremely large shoes, the man is pushing a stroller, uphill, and obviously in the face of some other seemingly insurmountable odds such as climate (as evidenced by the raincoat that seems to be blowing in the wind.) Going backwards (or letting them “down”) is simply not an option, and this guy knows it.
I thought about my children. I thought about what I am to them. I never had a very clear picture of what a Dad looked like growing up. There’s another story there, certainly. But suffice to say that each day of my life I feel as if I’m blazing a trail. I’ve been a Dad now for eight years. Much of this time I’ve been convinced that being a good Dad meant showing your kids you loved them with words and actions. I was certain that it meant spending time with them, loving their mother in front of them, and setting an example of how to treat friends, family, and the world in general.
But the man in this picture doesn’t seemed too concerned with treating the world in general. He’s not trying to bond with the baby in the stroller. He’s not trying to foster a strong self image for his offspring. Instead, he is simply trying to move forward, despite the odds. It made me realize that being a Dad (or a Mom for that matter) is not always about what the kids see. There are so many responsibilities that must be addressed each day as a parent at a level far below a child’s radar.
Whether it’s paying the bills or keeping the house, taking out the trash or changing the oil, these things matter. Renewing your car tags, saving for a rainy day, taking care of your own parents, and voting are all ways to be a parent. These are things that will likely go unnoticed unless they go undone.
So even though the high “I” personality inside of me wants to focus on those special after-school moments with my children, I’m beginning to see how the less-glamorous moments, the often unseen, unspoken, unrewarded tasks we must face, are often of equal importance to the welfare and well-being of our children.
In short, our big shoes make it possible for those big heads to tackle the world, and we can’t let them down.