It’s not that I was stressed out about being alone with the kids. My wife had gone out of town before. It was the darn mornings. I’m used to racing out of the house at the crack of dawn, when the rest of my family is still asleep. My most productive hours of the day are before most people even wake up. With my wife gone, the mornings with the kids were all mine.
Accordingly, I lounged in bed an extra few minutes before dragging myself into the shower. Unlike most mornings, there was really no rush. The kids wouldn’t be up for another half hour, at least. When they did awake, I would busy myself with their needs: dressing, breakfast, and of course, the dreaded hair.
For the next few days, managing my six-year-old daughter’s hair was my sole responsibility. And this terrified me more than a crashing octogenarian on life support. Barely able to pull together my own personal appearance on a daily basis, preparing girl hair was definitely going to be a challenge.
It wasn’t that I hadn’t been prepped. My wife, daughter, and I had a practice session before her departure. But we all know that anything can go wrong on game day.
So there my daughter stood on a step stool as I tried valiantly to brush out the curly unruliness of sleep from the tangled tendrils. Occasionally the brush would stick and she would protest whimperingly until I withdrew pressure. As I had been taught, I parted the red sea evenly forming a straight line on top. But as the slope of her head dove down, the part became a mangled twist of tributaries forking and bending towards the nape of the neck.
I grabbed a clump of hair clumsily, trying to entangle the band into a pony tail. With each second that past, my daughter became more wiggly underneath my hands. She hummed a nondescript tune and darted back and forth randomly.
My brow furrowed and the sweat formed at the base of my receding hair line. My ineptness of hand was interrupted by the clarity of thoughts coalescing in my brain. On any given day, at this time in the morning, I could find myself entrenched in the human condition. Ensnared in an end-of-life discussion, examining a pus filled wound, or lamenting on the lack of response to a last ditch treatment.
You can’t be in this profession long without realizing that the joys and pains of life are but fleeting flights of fancy. Happiness is neither a place or a thing, it’s a series of disconnected moments. The more of these we have, the more we recognize, the closer to nirvana we come.
And we often recall the big ones: When our eyes first locked with that of lover, or a child slithered through the birth canal and into this great state of ineptitude that we all share.
But I can’t help but think that there is a certain divineness in the minutia. Standing in the kitchen with my daughter’s hair slipping through my hands as she dances to a silent song that only plays in her six-year-old brain, I can’t help but think there is something important happening here,
I can’t help but think that this is one of those moments.
One of those moments that make a life.
Jordan Grumet is an internal medicine physician and founder, CrisisMD. He blogs at In My Humble Opinion.