The other day I was rebuilding a section of the backyard fence when my six-year-old daughter Alia came over and said, "Daddy, you're bleeding on your neck."
I had scratched myself on a nearby tree branch.
"It's just a little blood. No big deal," I told her, and off she went.
She returned a few minutes later with a wet washcloth in one hand and a bandage in the other. "Don't worry, I'll take care of your cut Daddy," she said.
I squatted so she could reach my neck with the cloth. "This might hurt a little, but I'll try to be gentle," she said.
When she was finished, she carefully applied the bandage, tapping it down for good measure.
"You should come in the house in a few minutes so I can put that stinging stuff on that kills the germs," she said, and off she went.
I waited a few minutes, then I went inside for some "stinging stuff."
Alia directed me to put my head and neck in the bathroom sink so she could pour the bottle of hydrogen peroxide on my cut, but I could see that was a disaster waiting to happen. I asked her to dip a Q-tip in the bottle and swab my cut. But first she had to remove the bandage.
"Do you want me to rip it off fast or slow," she asked. I said fast, and she did. "Ouch!"
Then she swabbed my neck with the hydrogen peroxide and put a new bandage on. Satisfied with her patch job, she said, "Daddy, remember when I said I didn't want to be a doctor?"
"Well, I still don't want to be a doctor who does surgery and all that gross stuff, but I like fixing boo-boos."
"That's fine," I said. "There are plenty of doctors who don't do surgery. In fact, you could be a paramedic, ride around in ambulances and fix up people enough to take them to the hospital, where another doctor can do the surgery and all that gross stuff."
"Cool!" she said, and off she went.
I smiled, then checked my mental checklist of the things Alia wants to be, so far, when she grows up.
Pet store owner. Check.
Sigh. That's probably just as well.
On Monday, Alia and hundreds of other Brookings-Harbor children start school (she'll be in first grade). The students will arrive with hopes and dreams of what their futures might hold. I'm confident the teachers and staff will not only support those dreams but stir up the pot to create a few more.
At home, my wife and I will continue to feed Alia's sense of adventure, self confidence and self awareness andndash; all with hefty spoonfuls of love and support.
Now that I think of it, raising a child (yes, it does take a village) is sort of like cooking a mystery meal. You throw a bunch of ingredients into a pot, without the faintest idea of what might result. Often the result can be better than we hoped for, depending on whether or not we used high-quality ingredients, and seasoned it with love, compassion and a dash of patience.
Our children are works in progress and, like the rest of us, always will be.
No matter what my daughter chooses to be when she grows up, I know she will act with confidence and compassion for others, especially if they have a boo-boo.
It's comforting to know that the next time I cut myself, there's a future doctor in the house.
A father's gotta' have hopes and dreams, too!