When I asked my children what they would want to do if given the choice of anything they could do today, their opinions differed, but only just.
The youngest originally wanted to go to his favorite park and see if the slide was made faster by our recent snowfall. The next oldest wanted to play one of our favorite games, which I mentioned earlier, capture-the-flag. The oldest one (left in the house, anyway, since the oldest is in boot camp), well, she would have rather done anything that got her out of dish duty today.
After getting ready for the day and heading out to caffeinate ourselves (not the kids; just my wife and I – I’m not that crazy), we decided to take a detour. We drove down to the river beach after seeing how much of an ice shelf was down there, and there we were, my youngest in slippers and the rest of us not much better off, tossing rocks onto the shelf to see how far we could get them to slide.
After five minutes, the youngest decided he wanted to come back to the ice, while the next oldest decided the park would become her new choice, but the oldest?
Well, she still wanted out of having to do the dishes.
When the time came, we went to the park first. Sadly, no snow remained on the slide, but that was okay, because the city installed a new dragon that begged to be climbed:
After successfully conquering the dragon, they decided to eat the sun:
My youngest girl, however, wanted to be different, so instead of eating the sun, she was content to merely hold it in her hand, smiling as its light passed through:
Noticing the sun’s low-slung position on the horizon, I suggested to my “bosses” that we move ahead to the ice shelf down at the river’s edge. With glee, they ran to the car, and we sang Christmas carols as we drove down to the water’s edge.
When we arrived, we studied it with care:
We debated on the safety of the ice’s thickness, and despite their urgent orders, I was still hesitant to pull off my best Bear Grylls impression and go running across the ice. I mean, come on, it’s a river; how thick can it be?
Then, I came across this:
Cool, I noticed, there’s no water under the ice, since the dam is wide open!
Kids! Let’s play!!!
I realize now that I have no pictures from our playtime, because my phone didn’t come out of my pocket, nor was I tempted to reach for it. We ran, we slipped, they slid across the ice, and the laughter was not only hysterical at times, but contagious.
We saw strange and unusual sights, like geese footprints, frozen into the ice, or this:
A frozen-over scar in the ice shelf from when some other kid (or adult pretending to be a kid, like me) tossed a rock into the still-forming ice.
In the end, we ended up having a day to remember, and all because I let go of my incessant need to control, all while still providing a safety net by being present for my children.
Later, after we arrived back home, they asked if we could all sit down around the table and write my oldest son (the one in boot camp) a letter, so we did – as a family.
Then, we all sat down to dinner together – as a family.
Lastly, we watched The Santa Clause together – as a family.
One of the coolest things about offering mindful, intentional presence, is that it begets invitations for further interaction.
The more present we are as parents, the more of our presence is requested – the more we are invited to be a part of the memories that they will carry forward into adulthood and then attempt someday to recreate with their own children.