Arguably, the most powerful scene in Harper Lee’s classic To Kill a Mockingbird is when six year-old Scout approaches the lynch mob gathering around her father, Atticus, who stoically stands guard for imprisoned Tom Robinson. As readers, we imagine the worst from the mob – blind violence. But Scout identifies and imagines the best.
“Don’t you remember me, Mr. Cunningham? I’m Jean Louise Finch. You brought us some hickory nuts one time, remember?”
That’s what I love about being a reader, a father, a human being; being surprised; having my perspective tested and deepened. Of late, my favorite father-daughter moments occur during our stroller runs to the park and back. My daughter is a firecracker. When she’s not bouncing off the walls, she’s asking me questions about the way things are.
Life questions. Deep ones. As a dad, it’s my duty to answer her honestly. Here are five of the most important lessons I have learned from these stroller-running exchanges:
Lesson 1: Be social.
Scene: Man dragging garbage bin to curb.
- Ada: Who’s that man? What’s he doing? Can I say hi to him?
- Me: Hmm … I don’t know. Taking out the trash. Sure.
- Ada: Hi, man! We’re going to the park!
- Man: Oh boy! Have fun, little lady!
Lesson 2: Be honest.
Scene: Car enters driveway. Woman exits, walks to front door with bags in hand.
- Ada: What she has in there?
- Me: Looks like groceries.
- Ada: Is she gonna eat them?
- Me: First, she’ll cook them to make a meal.
- Ada: Then she’ll poop?
- Me: Yes. Eventually.
Lesson 3: Be thankful.
Scene: Quiet stretch of road. Sunny skies. Cool breeze.
- Ada: Dad? Why are spiders so squiggly?
- Me: You mean like the one at Toys ‘R Us?
- Ada: Yeah … I like them. They’re soo cute!
- Me: You know, spiders are not …
- Ada: I wish I could have all the spiders.
- Me: …
Lesson 4: Be open-minded.
Scene: After waving at and greeting a happy dog.
- Ada: Why did Beast turn into a prince?
- Me: Because Belle kissed him and broke the curse.
- Ada: What’s curse mean?
- Me: Um. It’s when a sorc-
- Ada: (Sigh) I wish he turned back into Beast again.
- Me: (Sigh) Me too.
Lesson 5: Be Imaginative.
Scene: Approaching a rolling hill.
- Ada: You be Kristov. I’ll be Anna.
- Me: Okay. Let’s go up the North Mountain.
- Ada: Okay! Oh no! The wolves are coming!
- Me: Ah!!
- Ada: Now be Beast!
- Me: Okay… (out of breath) … GET OUT!!
- Ada: Now be Ariel’s daddy!
- Me: …
You can really learn a lot about the world if you listen to those with experience. Likewise, you can deepen your perspectives by listening to those who see it with fresh eyes and open minds.
Written by Stephen Marcin.