In my visit to San Fransisco last month, I stayed with a friend that I have known for nearly 30 years. We grew up together in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio and he is one of only two people that I still regularly talk to from my home town. There is a reason for this. He is one of the kindest and most caring men I have ever known. He continually reaches out and asks me about my life. And he too has three children. He too married quite young. He too works from home.
But, he is in a very different phase of his family. His children are young, with the youngest still breastfeeding. His oldest and middle child never stop playing and building and doing. And when I entered into his home last week, I was struck by just how different our lives are, even as we share so much in common. He is in the “toys everywhere” phase, the part of life that is punctuated by semi-organized piles rather than well-contained spaces.
The toys of the family room flowed into the dining room easily, and as his three children walked through the kitchen, so too followed the toys. It was a beautiful reminder of what it takes to keep children safe and entertained and to be a part of their lives in an active way. The mess of this part of life would be maddening to those who don’t know what survival with three young children actually looks like. It looks like compromise at every corner, at no spaces for just yourself. It means everything that can be shoved into a mouth, most definitely has been.
And yet, I saw the love that my friend showed to his family in living amongst the toys and the trails of long-forgotten activities. There was reading and there were car tracks. There were instruments and there were blocks. There was make-believe houses and pretend horses who talked. There was love in each 5 minute experience that momentarily let us talk and enjoy their company. These kids were not shuttled off to watch a video or play on an iPad, even though I’m know they have access to both. Instead, the lived-in spaces were used by each child because it wasn’t just for adults. His kids are every bit a part of his home as he is.
And while I would not go back to that phase because I enjoy my 16 and 15 and 9 year old too much to wish for it, I was jealous of the play time he still had in front of him. He is a man, a father, and a caring friend. I love him very much, and I am so glad he is in my life. I tell him so, regularly. This is what is means to be the detoxing man, to connect with and have respect for other detoxing men.