As a dad, there are two lies I continually tell myself:
- My wife really did consider my top baby name choices (and but for her three flashes of inspiration, I would probably be hanging out with little Indiana, Leia, and Bruce-Willis right now).
- When I was a kid, I would jump up off the couch with a smile on my face, eager to race out the door and get active whenever my parents asked me to. No delays. No whining. Baseball game? Batter up. Hockey game? Lace ’em up.
Of course, I know deep down that as a kid I was fused to the couch with no interest in moving and on many days the most exercise I got was when I had to get up to change the TV channel.
Over the holidays, my wife and I noticed that our family had become weekend hermits. Kind of like the lazy cousin to the weekend warrior. With no school, a hectic holiday schedule, and rather unpredictable weather we found ourselves staying inside.
One snowy Saturday, we decided that a surefire cure for our winter blahs was sledding. Of course, no one jumped up off the couch when we suggested it. And we didn’t technically have a sled (ours having worn out a few seasons ago when little Bruce-Willis came along and I had to keep the other two out of the house in the middle of winter for as long as humanly possible). But, we did have a crazy carpet, a classic wooden baby sled, and a local toy store that we knew would be well-stocked.
So, we bundled up the kids, packed B-W into the baby sled, and my wife set off for the park with the three of them and the magic carpet. Meanwhile, I set off in the car to the toy store in search of a sled, planning to meet them at the park as soon as I could.
Remarkably, things worked out at the store. I was in and out and rolling up to the hill at our local park in record time. Perhaps unremarkably, that’s pretty much all that worked out.
My wife was waving her hands for me to hurry up. B-W was screaming. It was freezing cold and excessively windy and his little cheeks had taken a serious beating from the wind on the walk over. He had zero interest in this strange slide-down-a-hill-on-a-foreign-contraption concept we were suggesting he try. Instead, I took him to the car to warm up while icy tears streaked his cheeks and he shouted for his mama. My wife took the new sled, did two runs with the older two, then “volunteered” to take the little guy home.
I watched her drive away with the winter sun and realized I was standing in the dark, alone with two cold kids on what amounted to a snow-covered lump. I’d like to be able to say that’s when everything turned awesome. But the opposite is true. The kids were cold and miserable. They were at each other’s throats in a battle over the new sled. And, to top it off, we were on the verge of dinnertime and they were both starving. That hill might as well have been an erupting volcano as I struggled to eke out another 10 minutes there.
And then – after all that – we had to walk home. Indiana and Leia stalled and fought every four feet, threatening to push each other down the hill “next time”. There was going to be a next time?
Once home, fed, in jammies and in bed, the kids – and my shoulders – finally relaxed. “You know,” my oldest said, “sledding was awesome.” My daughter agreed. I wondered for a moment what sledding adventure they had been on?
But then I realized something: my kids believed the lie, too. It is only in hindsight that we think we jumped up, swung that bat, laced those skates, ready for anything.
And the way I see it, it’s my job as a dad to make that happen as often as I can. To get them up off the couch and put them in the best possible position to believe that lie again and again and again.