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“And how do we begin to covet, Clarice? Do we seek out things to covet?…We begin by coveting what we see every day. Don’t you feel eyes moving over your body, Clarice? And don’t your eyes seek out the things you want?” ~ Hannibal Lecter

Strolling the shopping mall with my grandson the other day I couldn’t help but take notice of all of the other adults with children in tow. Most were moms wrestling with shopping bags while re-seating wiggling toddlers into their strollers. Some had older children to corral and lead through the temptations of fifty-cent mechanical elephant rides, candy dispensers and the ubiquitous check-out impulse items. It’s not easy.

I saw few fathers in the mall with their wives and children and of the ones I did see, most seemed to leave the child wrangling to the moms. There was one man I saw while I was walking the mall with my grandson. When I saw him it was hard for me not to stare and I nearly stopped in my tracks.

He was a pleasant-looking man, in his early 30s walking next to his wife (or partner). In his arms he held a baby. A baby girl about eight months old. The baby was sound asleep, resting with the mindless comfort of a child who knows she is loved and safe.

As this couple walked past me I watched how the man was holding his child. She was fully supported, secure – enveloped in his arms. He was engaged in easy conversation with his wife which signalled to me that carrying his child in this way was no imposition – posed no impediment to him.

I was touched by seeing him and instantly recalled the feeling of being a little girl nestled into my own father’s arms. I recalled the smell of his aftershave, the little curly hairs on his chest, the smoothness of the skin of his arms and the safety I felt when he held me.

The experience made me think about how important a father is to a child. Yes, moms are important but fathers bring something to a child that is equally important. I thought of all the children who grow up without knowing what it feels like to be held by a father who loves you. I thought about how even at my age, I miss that feeling.

I wondered if that little girl was aware of the warmth of his body, the beating of his heart or the strength of his chest pressed so firmly against her cheek. I wondered if she knew how he carried her so effortlessly as if she were an inseparable part of him.

In that instant, I envied her.