My son turned and looked in my eyes as he ascended the plastic grey climbing wall. Clambering to escape me as I advanced on him, his fingers slipped off of each hold and his attempts to elude me were stifled. Laughing uncontrollably it seemed that falling off of the play equipment was the most distant thought in his mind. I could tell he was fueled by adrenaline.
A light snow fell and tickled the ends of our noses. Each flake melted on our warm, wind burned skin creating a damp film that dripped off of our chins while we chased each other. The sand beneath our feet was just wet enough to cause the surface to firm. Below this darkened soft crust, the light brown grains of rock remained dry and loose and fine enough to steadily creep into our shoes.
It was May 19th and unseasonably cold in my hometown of Sault Ste. Marie. Record low temperatures forced most spring adventurers indoors. City parks were devoid of life; the cold, muting echoes of screaming children that typically filled the air during this time of year.
The only voices present belonged to my son and I.
It was a miserable day and I would have preferred to remain indoors. The icy painted metal pipes in the playground stung my palms as we climbed. The cold tightened the skin around my knuckles and I felt as if they were going to burst while I clenched ladders, railings and hanging bars. Layers of clothing fruitlessly shielded my skin from the impending wind that blew off of the nearby river. I felt the bitterness in my bones.
My son was unaffected by the cold, the wind and the snow. The clothes piled on his body made him look disproportionately thickset aside from his ankles where rubber boots synched tight around his calves. Periodically he would stop to purge his boots of sand and became excited there was enough to form little piles on the play equipment beside his feet. “Whoa that’s a lot of sand, daddy!” he would yell, pulling the stiffened rubber back over his heels. He wore a toque to keep his ears warm – one that came as a promotion in a case of beer. The only one I had available.
We ran and jumped and concocted play scenarios, centering on my rapid pursuit of him. Each time we switched roles I hinted that he might want to seek warmth in the car or make his way home. “Again!” he would jubilantly scream in response, disregarding my desire for heat.
Circling the equipment at a sprinters pace we began to tire. Gasping for air we stopped laughing and I caught a moment of the silence that surrounded us. My son and I faced each other, steaming breath bellowing from our mouths. His nose was running over his upper lip and my eyes were watering and red. Our cheeks were glistening.
In that moment, being cold did not matter any more. Looking around at the stillness of the deserted park I realized that something special was happening and that my son and I had a unique opportunity. The two of us had acres of green space at our disposal. We had the run of multiple playgrounds, each one different, and each one offering a fresh adventure. Our play was unobstructed, uninhibited and limitless. What was a miserable, cold day surprisingly turned out to be beautiful.
My son and I were able to bond and create our own peaceful chaos.
I didn’t want to be at the park that day but I am glad we went. Sometimes taking a chance on the things you don’t want to do can result in the unexpected. Remember to keep an open mind and stop to take a look at the world through your child’s lens – often things will appear more clearly. Not recognizing this was my failure on that day.
Be open to what your child wants, no matter what it is. Their laughter and smiling faces will transform important moments out of what seems to be the smallest gestures. And when they’re happy, the things you dwell on, the things that don’t really matter, melt away like snowflakes falling in May.