FEATURE — When I picked up my youngest from rock-climbing camp earlier this week, he was breathless. Before we made it out of the building, he exploded, “Mom, you’ll never believe what happened today.”
He was gripping a small, red certificate in his sweaty hands. Thinking it surely had something to do with the joy dancing on his face, I inquired about it.
“What this?” he replied dismissively. “No, this just means I’m ‘Camper of the Day.’ That’s not what I’m talking about.”
In response to the quizzical look I must have been wearing, he exclaimed, “I got my spark today!”
He spent the 20-minute car ride home animatedly showing off what he was sure was the start of several callouses on the fingers of each hand (I nodded appreciatively even though I saw nothing) and recounting the mind-blowing news that all the professional climbers keep their legs bent when they climb.
“That’s where you get all your power, mom,” he explained. “It’s not about your arms as much as I thought.”
This little piece of knowledge set up the spark; putting it into action ignited the flame. He was almost immediately able to climb faster and higher than he had before. And it was thrilling.
The funny thing is he hadn’t even wanted to go to camp that day. He was tired. The Taco Bell he’d had before piano wasn’t settling well, and he missed his brother who is off at a sleepaway service camp in the central Utah.
But he went anyway. And he was rewarded with a spark.
In the spirit of full disclosure, he didn’t really have a choice. My husband made him go.
This isn’t our first parental rodeo after all. And we’ve bought enough season ski passes to know that even though our boys love to ski, they still hate “going” skiing. Pajamas and cartoons always seem more appealing than sub-freezing temperatures and tight ski boots on a Saturday at 6:30 a.m.
Plus, this same boy taught us years ago that sometimes you need an outside push for your inside spark.
We were in Edinburgh, Scotland, at the time – day nine of a 15-day family trip to the U.K. and France. We’d already logged 20,000 steps a day crisscrossing London, lost ourselves in the world of Harry Potter, navigated the narrow alley ways of Oxford on our way to an old-time circus, walked the medieval walls of York, stormed the castle of Stirling, hiked to Arthur’s Seat above Edinburgh and then walked the Royal Mile.
It was all lovely. And exhausting. Especially for me.
In addition to being the family trip planner/manager and having writing deadlines every night of the trip, I’d started the adventure depleted from a nasty stomach bug I’d caught in Boston.
So, when my husband went on an evening stroll to soak in the local nightlife of Edinburgh while I stayed home doing laundry and packing the family back up for the last leg of the trip to France, I got annoyed.
With every shirt, pair of socks and underwear I folded, my annoyance grew. And resentment took its place when he came home and went to bed, and I continued to pack.
The next morning, I was still resentful. Resentful as we played kick-the-can at a local park. Resentful as we wandered through the Scottish National Museum.
Our youngest noticed the resulting tension.
But he had an idea to fix things: he’d see when my husband and I were walking in close proximity to each other, run up, grab our hands and smack them together.
After he’d executed his plan two or three times, we asked him what on earth he was doing.
“I’m trying to get your spark back,” he replied sheepishly.
My husband and I looked at each other. I looked at our boy. Hopeful concern written all over his face. And my resentment began to melt.
And in its place, the spark I normally felt for my husband flamed again.
My young son already knew something key back then: sparks in life are important.
In fact, they are essential.
You’ve got to do what you can to safeguard the old ones. And to cultivate the new ones.
Sometimes that means your dad has to force you to rock climb. And sometimes that means your 5-year old son has to knock his parents’ hands together.
But when your parents start kissing in public after you helped them get their spark back? Now, that’s one step too far. And according to my boy, something no one really wants to see.
Kat Dayton is a columnist for St. George News, any opinions given are her own and not representative of St. George News.
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