How Children Keep You Young

The snow has dropped its suitcases in Northern New Jersey and determined to outstay its welcome. Snow makes the best of us a little cranky on our morning commute, but for my kids, it’s an adventure.

While I’m shivering and trying to hurry everyone along so that my six year old isn't late for school, he’s climbing every snow pile without any concern to his socks getting wet or even falling flat on the ice. He even turned our short drop-off/pick-up walk into a game, it’s called “survivor night.” Basically, you can only walk on the snow, you must climb over every snow pile, and there are no such things as “rescues” or “help from mom.” There are levels and points, but they seem to be randomly determined at the discretion of the six year old. Needless to say, it takes us twice as long to walk the half a block from school to where I park the car. It can be exhausting, and frustrating, when all I want to do is get out of the cold and get on with my day. We are always the last ones to leave.

But the other day, I decided to give in and play along. I trudged through the snow instead of walking the path, I climbed over the huge mounds in the parking lot made by the snowplows while other parents stared— their children eyeing us enviously. My two sons were overjoyed by my participation. They became even more dedicated to the game, humming theme music as we jumped over obstacles.

Something strange happened in that moment, some block of ice melted off my shoulders, and I realized that I felt free. So often, my day to day experience of being a parent turns into a routine, and it becomes more about “looking” like a good parent, (whatever version of that we imagine it to be), than being in the moment. I realized that I felt more like myself crunching snow and kicking ice, than I did walking the cleared path and trying to corral everyone.

Maybe we’re all just six year olds pretending to be grown ups. Wearing grown up clothes and acting how we think grown ups are supposed to act, “don’t get your shoes wet,” “don’t run,” “don’t be late.”

We might think that being a parent means we have to put ourselves above the fun, when in reality, it’s an opportunity to join in.

Sure, my kids might give me gray hair, but they also provide me with endless opportunities to be present; to look at life with curious eyes, to find joy where others see misery, to be a part of the game.

This morning my son took his boots off and walked through the snow in order to try out his new waterproof socks, “double points,” he said. 

Game on.