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I often wonder, as I’m sure all parents do, if I’m making the right decisions in raising her. I wonder if I’m doing my part in helping her become aware and respectful and informed and compassionate to the ever-evolving world we’re living in. In the wake of the tragedy in Orlando recently and the still traumatizing aftershocks of Sandy Hook Elementary, I sometimes feel like I spend extra energy in making sure she’s tolerant and accepting of others regardless of their choices. While I feel this is exponentially important as her father, I worry that I’m not letting her be young in the process. I worry I’m not letting her enjoy her childhood by clouding it with adult realities. We haven’t discussed the specifics or the issues or the headlines, but I feel myself nudging her and course correcting as we go – yet sometimes my worry is I’m worrying her too much.

Yesterday she turned five years old. Her mother and I took the day off work as we do every year and climbed into her bed waking her up with the lyrics everyone knows and repeats on their birthday and we filled in her name where necessary until she opened her eyes and forced a smile. She walked downstairs then into the living room pulling tissue paper from bags revealing gifts she’d requested weeks in advance. We ate brownies for breakfast saving cake for her party and we let her control the day whispering rumors of a surprise later. We swayed in her hammock and rocked her new doll. We ate at her favorite place for lunch then we set our eyes on a place in town she didn’t know existed. With trampolines for floors and some for walls, with foam pits and obstacle courses and airbags to jump in like cannonballs in a pool, we sang “Happy Birthday” again as we entered because five is a reasonable age to have parental embarrassment.

She removed her shoes and replaced them with the required socks while her mother and I did the same then we left everything in a cubby in the lobby and jumped. We jumped from surface to surface and climbed and crawled and bounced until our allotted time expired. Catching our breath, we wiped the sweat from our brows and shoved our feet back into the shoes we wore in – back to reality. Late last night, once she was asleep in her room, I looked through the few pictures in my phone I managed to take between jumps. I wondered again, five years into this journey, if I’m protecting her and guiding her and preparing her for the years to come; I wondered if the worry and stress of a world I can’t control is negatively affecting the bubble her age places her in. Then I saw it in black and white, her smile, bright and wide as proof of happiness. Sometimes jumping for joy is all it takes to reach it.

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