When I was a kid, I used to fantasize about being my favorite G.I. Joe, living in an underground hideout with my other favorite Joes, in Antarctica. We were theoretically on patrol, but there was never any action or drama—it was Antarctica, after all. It was more about hanging out after work, winding down and watching TV. In Antarctica. It sounds weird, even as I type it out. Psychologists, enjoy your field day.
Why am I telling you this? It all comes back to kids, trust me.
So I went to Antarctica a few years ago. My wife wasn’t really interested, and, long story short, I went by myself. She met me in Buenos Aires afterwards. And while I did have a great time in Antarctica, something was definitely missing. Something about 5’3” and beautiful.
It’s nice to make memories, but it’s even nicer to remember them with somebody. And above all, it’s nicest to share the process with somebody. It’s not nearly as fun getting exited and awestruck all by yourself, trust me.
That’s the cool thing about kids. Toys aside, they want to share everything with us, and they remind us to enjoy the little things. Building a cool tower, popping runaway bubbles, dancing, whatever. Bub figured out he could jump over a playing card the other day. He was so proud of himself; he wanted nothing more than to share that with me. We made a whole game out of it, and it WAS fun. Who knew?
Kids are kind of like that friend that is always nagging you to go out. Annoyingly persistent, relentless even, exhausting. Then you finally give in, and you end up having a blast despite yourself.
Kids also make you slow down, literally and figuratively. This affords you time to look at the clouds, watch the waves or stop to wonder things like Bub posited the other day: “Why are there gates on the houses, Daddy?”
It’s truly contagious. We went to the forest preserve a few days ago and saw a few deer run across the path. I was WAY more excited than Bub. It’s a different kind of excitement, the kind I can only describe as sharing an experience with someone else. It’s a lot like falling in love. We love the way it makes us feel, but it’s almost more beautiful to know that you are sharing it with someone who is feeling the same thing.
I have a photo album of that trip to Antarctica here. It’s chock-full of some truly unsoiled, remarkable beauty. Scenery and serenity beyond my wildest G.I. Joe childhood fantasies. But it sits on the shelf, largely untouched. I’ve shown it to my wife, of course, and anyone else interested. But it’s much more fun to pull out the albums of us traveling together. It’s not just looking at pictures; it’s the times when we actually help the other remember something we’d forgotten that make it truly special.
The only other person I have this kind of relationship with is my brother. We can piece things together with context clues and vivid fragments from years and years ago. I’m so grateful to my parents for giving us this conduit back to our childhoods. I can only hope to give my kids the same.