Monday, January 30, 2012

Building Memories...and Nothing Else

Making snow forts has to be one of the coolest parts of childhood. In fact, I’d say it ranks right up there with Christmas, Halloween, and the day you realize that someone will actually pay you for losing teeth.

The best place by far to make a snow fort is in the massive piles of snow left behind by snowplows. I know this not because I’m some kind of crazy dad who uses his kids as an excuse to fulfill a childhood dream of making a snow bunker capable of withstanding a grenade, but because my kids told me it would be a good idea.

So off we went with two small plastic shovels to chisel a tunnel network through the eight-foot pile of snow at the end of our cul-de-sac. We may have been better off bringing dynamite. Five minutes and two broken shovels later, we were no closer to our goal of building the ultimate snow fort, but we were all cold and suffering various injuries from the bits of ice and shards of broken plastic that assailed us as we attempted to open a passage into the snowplow’s detritus.

On the bright side, I may have loosened a tooth in the excavation process. I wonder if anyone will still pay me for those.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

All I Want for Christmas is Everything

Christmas shopping with a toddler is just like Christmas shopping with any other human being, provided that human is a raging alcoholic, and you are shopping in a liquor store. A toddler approaches any shopping experience with two rules in mind:
1. Grab everything within reach
2. Ask for everything out of reach

Given my natural propensity for making rash decisions and putting myself in impossible situations, it should not come as a surprise that I thought the best way to figure out what my toddler wanted for Christmas would be to take him to a store and have him show me what he wanted. (Experienced parents have just planted their palms firmly onto their foreheads, knowing the disaster that awaited me.) It started like any other trip to Target, with a loud fit by my toddler because the cart with the special seat for kids was gone. Why a store can have fifty-seven handicap parking spots and two Starbucks coffee shops but only one kid-approved cart can only be guessed at with elaborate conspiracy theories about security guards watching helpless parents melt down in the aisles because of a missing cart.

Once we had settled on the virtues of a normal cart, it was off to the toy aisle. It was here that I made my main mistake. (In addition to bringing a toddler on a Christmas shopping expedition, letting him sit in the bottom of the cart, not sterilizing the cart surface before he sat down, and not installing motion detectors on the edges of the cart to prevent unnoticed additions to my merchandise.) I told him we were at the store to decide what he wanted for Christmas. I failed, however, to include the following facts:
1. We would not actually be purchasing any toys on this trip
2. We do not have unlimited funds for Christmas shopping
3.  All the toys in the store had been electrified, ready to deliver a significant shock to anyone who grabbed them from the shelf without asking first

What followed was about as predictable as the French losing a World War. My son developed a sudden affinity for every item we passed, which was overpowered only by his desire for the item located next to the one he had been ogling five seconds before. His efforts to fill the cart with Lego’s, trains, and Matchbox cars were matched only by my labors at returning to items to their rightful locations.

The trip was not a complete waste, however. I did learn several valuable parenting lessons (none of which I will probably remember next Christmas).  First, toddlers really don’t have a clue what they want for Christmas. My son was equally enthused about every item he grabbed, declaring his undying loyalty to each chunk of imported plastic.  Second, toys are way cooler than when I was a kid. Remember when we actually had to imagine that our airplanes flew and our elephants trumpeted? Thanks to technology and a successful campaign by Energizer, that is no longer necessary. 

As I shuffled back to the car in defeat, with no better idea what to get my son for Christmas, he spotted the kids’ cart lodged in a corral. “Daddy, can we go again?” Maybe I should just get him the cart for Christmas.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

With Great Speed Comes Great Bodily Injury

Most people think that after the age of say, twelve, you can’t go sledding anymore. This is far from the truth; a great number of teenagers can be found hanging out on sledding hills; they just don’t actually sled. I, however, have been a big fan of sledding my whole life. The rush of wind and the thrill of speed more than make up for the long, arduous climb back up the hill that it took 13 seconds to get down or the jarring in the lower spine caused by bouncing over frozen ground with only a thin piece of plastic for padding.

 Just when I thought my sledding days were over, I realized I could take my son sledding as a weak excuse to fly through the snow once again. “No,” my wife said. “You’re not taking our six-month-old sledding.” Eventually he grew to be two years old, though, a perfect age to sit in a sled in front of me and shield me from the snow flying up in my face. 

I soon discovered that sledding had changed from when I was young. At the age of ten, I would have sought out the mound of snow built up at the bottom of the hill with no other thought than “This will be cool.” Now it’s, “This will hurt. I wonder if my co-pay applies to emergency room visits. Can I use my HSA to purchase ice packs? Maybe I’ll be able to deduct my medical expenses this year.” 

And then there’s the duration of the sledding event. I have nostalgic memories of spending the better part of a day sledding, and most of that time in mid-air wondering “now what?” But now that I’m dragging myself and a thirty-pound toddler up the hill every time, I’m more interested in quality than quantity. As in quality time sitting at the top of the hill resting. But a two year old has no interest in my stalling tactic of explaining why some trees lose their leaves in winter and some do not.  “Really, you want to go again…already?” 

 I can’t help but wonder when my son will be able to pull me up the hill.