We are gentle giants

“Look!” my son shouted. “There’s a bug on the carpet!”

We’d been playing in the basement, which has its share of bugs during the summer months. My son’s got a keen eye for such things. He’d spotted it from across the room, over the din of one of the few episodes of Futurama that’s suitable for kids.

“Why isn’t it moving?” he asked. The bug held fast in our gaze, still as a statue while the three of us towered over it.

“He must be dead,” my daughter said, being the older and more matter-of-fact of my kids.

“He’s not dead,” I said. “He’s just being still. What do we have to remember about bugs and birds and animals?”

“We’re giants,” my kids remembered.

“That’s right,” I said. “We’re gentle giants.”

I’ve been reminding my kids that they’re gentle giants for a while now. It started at around the time they got big enough to chase squirrels, birds and bugs. It’s one of the very few bits of advice that they’ve accepted from their dad without tons and tons of questions.

The “giant” part comes easy. When you’re a kid, there’s nothing more validating than a grownup calling you a giant! Even in adulthood, who doesn’t love being big, being in control, and being in command of their world?

The “gentle” part demands a little more emphasis. It’s fun to be a giant, but it’s important to be a good giant. Both of my kids are getting bigger and stronger all the time. I remind them both, especially my son, that being gentle is how you express control of your strength.

You can obviously extrapolate this whole thing into adulthood in all kinds of ways. As individuals, as a collective, and as a species, we’re not always great at being gentle giants. Lord knows I’ve had my own failings.

That’s a conversation I’ll have with my kids in due time. I’ll probably have it in many forms over the years, many times over. My daughter’s recently learned what it means to be green, so that’s a nice segue in waiting. In the meantime, I can keep myself busy looking for my own steps forward.