It's a gift to walk where there is no pavement
When we go to Colorado, my kids have a chance to experience a few things we miss in the suburbs:
1. Mortality: When we spend time outdoors, we ultimately run into death. It might be a fresh carcass or dried bones, however it ultimately leads to a discussion about life, death and why we exist. Perhaps a dried carcass sounds morbid and maybe there's some validity in avoiding the morbid. However, I'm thinking that maybe it's crazier to hand a child a hunk of flesh shrink wrapped and placed on styrofoam so that he never fully comprehends our relationship with other organisms. I want my children to believe that death is real and that life matters.
2. Stars: When living in the suburbs, the sky becomes manageable, the universe tame. The moon never moves beyond a horizon, creating the "optical illusion" of being larger than life (though I might argue that it's more of an illusion to think we can shrink the moon by framing it between two skyscrapers). I want to see Joel and Micah gasp at the vast canvas of innumerable stars and I want to watch Brenna reach her hands out and attempt to grasp the universe with reckless abandon. I want them to be bold and humble. Stars play a role in this.
3. Open Space: My kids live in a place of constant freedom. They've turned a suburban backyard into a mud pit, a dragon fortress, a baseball field, an edible jungle and a Jedi Academy. In Colorado, they get to run as far as they want without running into a fence, looking both ways to cross a road or questioning who the land belongs to. Right now, it's their land.
4. Affectionate Parents: Sometimes we get into a habit of playing zone defense with the kids. We multi-task. We compartmentalize. And if we're not careful, it feels a little less like a relationship and more like running an efficient organization. Then on a road trip, I'll slip my hand around Christy's side or she'll place her hand on my knee while she drives and I watch Joel or Micah take notice. They study it silently - the gestures, the eye contact. We don't spell it out for them, but they sense intuitively that we're in love - which might ultimately make for the greatest sense of safety they can experience.
5. Uninterrupted Play: I had the chance for 3-D, interactive, educational games without worrying about laundry or cleaning the kitchen. My favorite Luddite App so far? The story app allows us to collectively tell either a shared experience or an entirely fictional narrative. I want them to internalize the message that even if there are ugly, contentious moments in cramped-up car rides, there isn't anyone I'd rather be with on my free time. Fuck the test or the Little League win or the popularity pissing contest. You'll always have a place here, kiddos.
Bonus Gift: At some point, I won't pay attention. I'll hurl a careless word and I'll come alongside Joel or Brenna or Micah. I'll help pull out the shrapnel. I'll wipe away tears. I'll hold them tightly and I'll tell apologize.