I am a Failed Father

By: Shaun Tanner , 10:30 PM GMT on April 17, 2014

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Oh, the guilt....more on that later.

I have three children, the oldest a 7-year-old girl. She is a naturally inquisitive young girl with an amazing memory and astounds me nearly everyday. I try to be a practical parent, neither lying to my children nor telling them the whole truth. Rather, I would prefer to direct them more to a journey to find the truth, where they ask themselves what the best answer to a question is before setting up an experiment to test their assumptions.

One example of this came after my daughter watched the original Toy Story. I could see her staring off into space after having watched the movie, contemplating some major question in her small little mind. After a minute or two, she turned to me and asked, "Do my toys move when I am not looking?"

I looked at her and said, "I don't know since I have never been able to see them when I am not watching them. What do you think?"

"I think they do move."

Here was my chance. "Well, maybe you can think of an experiment to test your guess."

She thought for a long moment. "Yes. Maybe we can put a camera in the closet and then watch to see if they move when we close the door."

Yes, that is when I didn't feel like a failed father.

Flash to near current day...

For the last few months, she has taken a great interest in the solar system and space in general. I have tried to cultivate that curiosity with questions of my own. If she has a question about the solar system, I try to lead her down a path, being right or wrong, then let her find her own truth. I was amazed one day when I showed her an artist rendition of Voyager 1 flying through the solar system, much like this one:



These artist renditions are often very realistic and you wouldn't be alone in assuming this was an actual picture of the spacecraft hurtling through the darkness of the solar system.

Instead, she looked at the picture and said, "But, dad, if the spacecraft is alone in space, who took that picture?"

I have felt obliged to guide that curiosity down a scientific path since I, myself, am a scientist.

Flash to this week...

My father (where I received my natural scientific curiosity) was talking to my daughter about the lunar eclipse that was set to peak at 12:46 A.M. Monday night/Tuesday morning Pacific Time. She was very excited about looking at eclipse images online and turned to me and asked, "can I watch the eclipse tonight?"

I had immediate mental images of sitting in our front yard in the middle of the night, imagining with her as the moon slipped into the Earth's shadow. Even though it was a school night, I immediately said "yes, I will wake you up when the eclipse is nearing its peak."

There I was, Monday night, sitting on my couch, keeping an eye on the clock so I wouldn't miss this very important moment. I don't know what happened, but the next thing I remembered was that I woke up on that same couch and was panicked when I looked at the clock to read...2:14. Damn!

I rushed outside to see just a silver of the moon cut out and the moon had returned to its normal silver color. I had missed the blood red moon, I had missed the lunar eclipse. Mostly importantly, my daughter will be disappointed when she woke up in the morning.

When she did wake up, I felt like a failed father when I had to tell her that we both missed the eclipse. She looked up at me and said with a sad voice, "now I have to wait until October to see another eclipse."

Could it be? Another chance at redemption this year? How could she know this and I did not?

After poking around the grand ole internet, I found this:




Sweet redemption will have to wait until October. To be continued...

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8. WunderAlertBot (Admin)
8:07 PM GMT on April 25, 2014
shauntanner has created a new entry.
7. Skyepony (Mod)
1:22 PM GMT on April 20, 2014
Don't kick yourself too hard. Tried to drag both mine out of bed for that. Only managed to wake up one...The six year old who'd hours earlier was super excited about it, wasn't waking up to see it.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 163 Comments: 37852
6. RenoSoHill
10:16 PM GMT on April 18, 2014
Neat thoughts of a dad! I had 3 daughters, been there, made the misteaks - now have 3 grand daughters and 3 grandsons, to show misteaks are still made.

About the next eclipse - that is just three days after the the Grand Teton WU Photographers gathering - bring your daughter and stay a couple extra days and see the eclipse from the Clear, Open and Wide Wyoming skies! (More info on my blog!)
Member Since: December 12, 2009 Posts: 7 Comments: 10851
5. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
6:56 PM GMT on April 18, 2014
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 171 Comments: 53841
4. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
6:50 PM GMT on April 18, 2014
there are 3 chances to come one in oct this year again in april 2015 one final time in sept of 2015

I am sure you will get to see one if not all three

Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 171 Comments: 53841
3. Patrap
2:17 PM GMT on April 18, 2014
Cherish the moments, as the grow up like Flowers, fast and beautiful.

A wunderul entry Shaun.

Thanx for it.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 424 Comments: 128344
2. RobDaHood
6:10 AM GMT on April 18, 2014
Shaun,
Congratulations! Raising a daughter is one of the greatest joys in life. I have had the pleasure twice. Both have grown into fine young women who I am quite proud of.

Did I make mistakes? Sure. They don't come with owner's manuals after all. Did we have lots of good times and did I get to watch their little minds work as they made awesome new discoveries? Plenty of times.

The most important thing is that they know, without a doubt, that they have a father who is engaged in their lives, cares about what they think, and who will always love them unconditionally and always be there for them.

They will have other eclipses...but they only have one dad.

Sounds like your girl has a pretty good one!

Keep it up!

-Rob

P.S. One day, when she is grown, she will realize that daddy is only human and thereby fallible.
She will love you all the more for it.
Member Since: September 2, 2008 Posts: 97 Comments: 32011
1. Astrometeor
5:26 AM GMT on April 18, 2014
Aww, don't kick yourself too hard Shaun. Just keep kindling her fire for science. If she continues a passion for planetary science, consider buying her a telescope or binoculars. I'm rather spoiled, both my parents hold bachelors in Astronomy, and my mother is a planetary worker for the planetarium at the Adventure Science Center here in Nashville, TN. The planetarium has state-of-the-art technology, some of the best in the world.

Link for Lunar Eclipses

Also, check out solar eclipses too. There's a great one coming in the future...hotels are already sold out in some areas.
The American Solar Eclipse of 2017

I know I'll be on a plane home for Nashville for that one (if I'm off at college at that point in the year).

So, yeah, you made a minor mistake. But don't worry about it too hard, you can't be a perfect parent. Just try your best and be true to her. :)
Member Since: July 2, 2012 Posts: 100 Comments: 10280

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About shauntanner

Shaun Tanner has been a meteorologist at Weather Underground since 2004.

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