From time to time, I’ve been known to complain about the endless “Groundhog Day” cycle that can make up the bulk of our early parenting lives. Routine is especially important for the young'uns, but it gets to be so…routine. But, every now and again, the routine gets a sudden spark of inspiration that can bring new daily anticipation. All of a sudden – the routine becomes so…pleasurable.
It’s no secret that K-Man likes going to fire stations, playing on fire trucks and, if he could figure it out, would probably like setting fires. (We’ll have to watch that closely.) Endless trips to the firehouse get fairly old, however. Routine. While I’m happy to indulge him in his toddler fantasies, even Daddy needs a break. So, a couple of weeks ago, I mixed it up.
There is a bird sanctuary near K-Man’s school that is home to a wide variety of birds like ducks, egrets and a bunch of other winged, feathered creatures that an equally wide variety of humans like to watch through their binoculars. From the reactions of the birdwatchers, it seems the number of different birds is impressive. But K-Man and I don’t stop to watch the birds; we go to the bird sanctuary to throw rocks. (No. Not at the birds. Geez.)
I never knew how throwing rocks into the water could be such a simple pleasure. Or perhaps I just forgot. The first time that K-Man tossed a rock into the water – he literally squealed in delight. (Note: Let me just reiterate that we’re not throwing rocks at birds. We’re throwing rocks at/in water.) Pretty soon, one rock at a time wasn’t enough. He was throwing handfuls. Then, the small rocks didn’t do it. “Big rock!” Every now and again, he’d give me the okay to throw a rock, too.
Obviously, throwing rocks is fun, but skipping rocks is better. I started skipping rocks and, as I did, I explained what I was doing. “I want to skip rocks.” It’s a little tough for a not-quite-three-year-old to understand the concept, but K-Man thought he was doing it right. He thought he was skipping rocks – and that’s good enough for both of us. “I did it, Daddy!” Yes, you did, little man.
There was this small part of me that wondered if I were teaching him bad habits by throwing rocks during our special time after school. I asked him if it was okay to throw rocks at someone. “No, Daddy. Only at water.” He’s obviously very clear on the concept. He’s obviously aware of the sanctity of throwing rocks at the bird sanctuary. I’m grateful for that. (Especially give the fact that I’ve taken my share of rocks off my head. My brother once tagged me from across the street. It was an epic, unforgettable shot, but the gash in my head pretty much eliminated any awe I might have had.)
The 20 or 30 minutes that we spend at “the birds” every day have become a true highlight of my week. The excitement that K-Man experiences with each and every splash and ripple is worth the routine. And, that’s what I have to really remember – it’s the real lesson. The activity may be the same day in and day out, but what’s so routine about smiles, laughter and pure childhood bliss? There may very well be no two snowflakes that are exactly alike, and the same goes for the delight of a kid. No laugh is the same. Nothing routine about that.