Monday, November 29, 2010

The Igloo and the Cakey Sidewalk

            “What do you want to build first?” I asked Celia, pointing to the eight inches of snow lying outside in our front yard. “A snowman. A snow fort. Or an igloo.”
            “An igloo!” Celia called out happily.
            “Okay! An igloo it is!” I ran into the garage to grab a couple of small coolers to use as our bricks, and we began to pack them and lay a foundation.
            Celia instantly gave up packing and happily sat on the bricks as I slowly laid them out into a ring. She cheerfully ate snow and said things like, “I got sick when I drank the pool water.”
            “Yes, that’s true. When we went to the hot springs last week you drank the water and had a belly ache, didn’t you?”
            “Yeah. And I had the pink medicine,” Celia said, nodding her head.
            “That’s right. We gave you the pink medicine called Pepto Bismol for your stomach ache. Hopefully, next time we go to the hot springs you won’t drink the water.”
            “Yeah,” Celia said in agreement. She ate another piece of snow and watched me struggle to pack the cooler with snow that wasn’t quite moist enough for easy brick creation.
            “Boys and girls live in their igloos,” Celia said to me.
            “Yes they do,” I responded with a grunt as I nestled another brick into the wall. “The whole family lives in their igloo. Even the tiny little babies, when they’re brand new and smaller than your brother Joshua. They live in the igloos too.”
            “Oh,” Celia said with a profound-sounding sense of understanding.
            I love it when she says that. Sometimes, I know there’s no possible way she could understand what was just said, but it makes her sound like she’s a brilliant little two-year-old with an insightful grasp of everything.
            I smiled and kept laying bricks. Celia happily kicked her legs as she sat, then played a version of peek-a-boo with the cat around the walls before sitting down again.
            “I’m cold,” Celia said after awhile.
            “Go see Mommy and have a hot chocolate,” I told her.
            Celia went inside as I finished the second layer of bricks. My arms and back were getting sore and sweat was running down my forehead. I stared at my handiwork and shook my head. That was a lot of work for such a small igloo, and only half-created! I gained new respect for the Inuit people, and finished laying two more bricks before going inside for an Alpine (hot chocolate with peppermint schnapps).
            Michelle handed me my warm drink as I finished unlayering, and said to me, “You didn’t shovel the walk.”
            “Oh,” I said, looking outside. Somehow, I’d forgotten, with all that igloo creating. I kicked off my boots, sat down and took a sip of the Alpine. And of course, forgot about shoveling until this morning, when everything had frozen and stuck making the job significantly more difficult.
            As I chipped away at the caked ice and snow this morning for a job that took forty minutes rather than the ten it would have taken if I’d have done it with Celia the night before, as I often do, I reflected on what I could have done differently. I suppose I could have shoveled after making the igloo, tired as I was. Or perhaps I could have done it before making the igloo – although that would have cut the igloo creating time much shorter.
            No, I needed to protect making that igloo. The experience was priceless. I know it’s a pretty lame excuse for an igloo, but these are the kinds of experiences parenting is all about. Mothers have their own versions of bonding with kids, and I respect that. For dads, doing activities together is where it’s at.
            Pick an activity, whether it’s building a fort from couch cushions, hiking, playing tag, or constructing a rickety igloo, and go for it. It gives a memorable experience together, and it creates a bond of love that goes deeper than words. It’s a physical way of saying, “I not only provide for you and care about you, I like to have fun with you too.” In other words, “I don’t just love you, I like you. A lot.”  
            That kind of time with kids is priceless. And it’s so natural for fathers to do stuff, we may as well work with our natural inclinations.
            I suppose I could have gone out after putting the kids to bed to finish shoveling. If I’d have thought of it, that would have been the best choice. But the kitchen’s massive pile-up of dirty dishes and pans caught my eye, and I found myself washing and cleaning for an hour before collapsing exhausted onto the couch to watch a movie with Michelle.
            So, I cut into my morning with tired arms and hacked away at the caked-up sidewalk. All of life is about making tiny decisions like this. The amazing thing is, no matter how tiny they are, these decisions add up quickly. Time passes, and we’ve chosen which path we took.
            I hope I can always choose the path that shows my family I love them. No matter how stressed or tired, I want that to be my number one message. When I look back at this last week, I think I succeeded at that, but I also failed too. It’s good to look back, see where I could have picked things up a notch, and change. We can choose in this life to grow into better people, or stagnate in bad habits and stale behaviors. I, for one, would like to grow. No matter how much my arms ache this morning, our lives are just a little bit better for it. For that, I am glad.
            Now, I just have to finish building that igloo.

1 comment:

  1. Ideally, you'd've started shoveling the sidewalk as soon as your daughter went inside. Since you didn't finish the igloo anyway, the extra ten minutes would not have made much of a difference in the igloo's progress anyway. Technically, once your daughter went inside, you were working on the igloo for selfish reasons (because it was fun). That's not necessarily a bad thing, but to be truthful, you have to admit that your arms ache from the hard morning shoveling because you were selfishly enjoying yourself the day before. Again, not a bad thing, but it might make you consider your time allocations a little differently in a similar situation next time.

    Oh yeah, and to be truthful as well, I totally would have kept working on the igloo, and been stuck with the hard work the next morning -- either that, or drank an extra can of Coke while I was doing the dishes, and gone out to shovel before the movie cuddle to burn off the excess energy. Then again, I actually enjoy shoveling....