For my child’s second birthday, I bought her a bike. Much to my dismay, it spent the first several months of its existence in the corner of the living room. Then one day she figured it out, spent the whole afternoon rallying through the yard, and I knew I would be able to keep her.
Having lived in Germany for the early years of her life, I was well accustomed to the sweet taste of socialism applied to child-rearing, where parents are encouraged to raise children to be their own person. They ought to be supported in the development of their unique personality and interests – and I should finance her ballet and yodel lessons.
I had been previously under the impression that having a child was a prime opportunity to develop a smaller version of myself with whom I could share all the loves of my life. My plan was to strategically develop her cycling, climbing and running skills over the years so that I would never be one of those parents who ‘used to’ be awesome but now just packs cute lunches.
By the time she was 3, reality had crushed my daydream of shaping a clone version of myself. She went to an outdoor school. She camped. She could tear it up on the world’s tiniest mountain bike. Yet given the choice, she would ask to go to museums, movies, or build Legos.
Convinced this is all part of her master plan to eventually detach and live her own life, I have taken to less direct means of influencing her hobbies. Mostly by perpetuating her belief in Santa Clause, which I plan to do until she is 18.
Santa’s main function in our home is to deliver the latest and greatest outdoor gear and equipment. This year it’s a pair of Atlas snowshoes. I have visions of us scaling up white, powdery hillsides all winter long and me saying things like, “Santa sure does have good ideas.”
She knows enough to never argue the infallible wisdom and generosity of Santa. He always seems to know that she needs a new pair of skis, bike parts, or camp cook set. He brings sleds, boots, jackets, snow pants. He is a practical giver, that Santa.
As for me, I support the development of an autonomous human being by gifting her some of those things that she wants that have nothing to do my own desires. I suppose that creates a little balance in our home and slightly reduces her need for therapy as an adult.
In the meantime, we’re equipped for nearly all of our adventure needs. While snowshoeing may not be her first choice of activities, keeping up with mom is surely preferable than post-holing for miles. We’ll make a compromise and come home to drink hot chocolate and build Lego sets.
Best of all, that seems to be what Santa brings me every year for Christmas. He appears to know that time together is the greatest gift of all.
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