We were leaving a birthday party one day. You were, what, Boone, maybe 3 years old? Your balloon slipped out of your hand and floated up and away. For a moment, we watched it go in silence. It flew over the fence, past the lone palm tree at the edge of the parking lot, higher and higher, growing smaller against the plain blue sky.
Your tears came seconds later -- heavy, racking sobs that blocked any speech. I did my best to console you, treating it as a teachable moment. Joys in life are fleeting, I told you, balloons drift away or pop. It happens, it's OK. Some things aren't permanent. I thought this was the best way to handle the mishap, rather than work out how to get a replacement balloon from the facility we'd just exited. Then, through your tears, came the true reason for your sorrow... You weren't upset that you lost your balloon. You were concerned that your balloon, now traveling out there in the big wide world, would get hurt. You didn't want it to be alone.
My God, Boone. In that exchange, you captured everything I feel about you and your brother. Someday, you will float away, perhaps unexpectedly. (No matter how much preparation, I'm sure I won't be ready.) But, I'll have to remember my reply to you that day. I said, "Balloons are meant to float away. They're meant to have big adventures. Maybe we can try to imagine what kind of adventure your balloon is undertaking right now."
I saw in your eyes that you were trying to believe what I said. And I saw this was not the time for a teachable moment. I darted back inside the facility and snatched another balloon from another birthday party's arrangement. You were placated on the way home, but I could tell you were still worried about your balloon floating across the globe.
Boone, someday you'll float away from me. And I will cry heavy, racking sobs because you're out there in the big wide world and I won't want you to get hurt. I won't want you to be alone. And when I have my wits about me, I'll remember that moment in the parking lot after a birthday party and what I told you -- that you're meant to have big adventures. But, it won't help, just as my words didn't help you that day.
Some things aren't permanent.
The post originally appeared on The Daddy Complex.