So last December 26th, I lost my office in this historic three-day deluge of rain. Because I'm a video producer, almost all of my stuff is based on electricity, or batteries...which charge via electricity. It was a nightmare getting everything out before the water flowed in, and a nightmare that I swore I would never repeat.
With that, I set up my editing suite in my basement. This was going to be a temporary thing while I could search for a new place that would offer me all that I had, for around the same price. I gave myself a deadline of three months.
Well lo and behold, it's almost August... guess where I'm writing this from?
Wait... hold on a sec...
"Benjamin! Quit using Sam as a human trampoline!"
Now, where was I? Oh yes...
It has not been a bad thing. For starters, I've saved thousands of dollars. The basement is finished, with nice yellow walls, and a desk that is next to a door that walks out to our back yard. I've never had natural light in any office I've ever worked in, so it's really been a nice change.
And our dog spends a lot of time sleeping at my feet. He's fourteen and a half... I know we're on borrowed time with him.
And one thing it has really allowed me to do is to be more of a presence to our boys, especially this summer. Sure, I have to work funkier hours (see: 6am start), but my productivity has not dropped a tick, while also allowing me to take them on adventures from time to time.
And we went on a really cool one last week. There is a place in St. Louis called the City Museum. To try to describe it would be almost impossible. Picture a ropes course, mixed with a Tim Burton film, with a sprinkling of Dr. Frankenstein, combined with the most ridiculous jungle gym you've ever seen... that sells liquor.
In 2012, Erin McCarthy, a writer for MentalFloss wrote, "So basically, it's the coolest -- and most entertaining -- place on earth."
It's one of those rare places that adults find even more fascinating than kids, who are completely tripped out by it.
And thanks to my friend, Jeanne, we had free passes.
So last Wednesday, the boys and I went down to lose ourselves in this place. Our first stop was the roof of the former shoe factory, which boasts a fountain you can jump through...and over, a Ferris Wheel called Big Eli which was found in an abandoned barn, and a school bus. Yes, there is a school bus on the roof.
Did I forget to mention that is was approximately 110 degrees on the roof on Wednesday?
After exhausting ourselves and re-charging with a quick drink, we headed to, and flew down, the ten-story slide. Actually, my boys flew down. I was a hint on the "big" side for it, which means by the time I made it to the bottom, a story or two ended up an orifice.
We then ended up in The Caves, a series of...well...caves...that were hand sculpted by the now deceased creator, Bob Cassilly, and his crew. They are not for the faint of heart, and they would send a claustrophobe into cardiac arrest. After climbing through a few (including a couple on my stomach), we found the cave exit. I looked at the boys who were still giddy from the slide and I said, "Okay, I'm going to sit for a bit. You guys go explore around here, and I will be here the entire time. Are you good with that?"
"Absolutely!" And off they ran.
As I sat down, I grabbed my phone and started responding to e-mails.
"Can we get this change to the edit?" Yes.
"Are you free to shoot on this date?" Yes.
"Would you like to participate in a podcast?" Yes.
A few minutes later, when I had finished my e-mails, I started playing Solitaire. After two rounds, my mind started to wander. I looked up and realized that there were so many kids having fun, and so many adults who looked like they weren't having so much fun.
It then took me back to a time when my oldest wasn't even two. I had pushed him to the park in his stroller. He wanted me to go on the slides with him, so I did. He wanted a push on the swings, which I was so happy to do. I kept up with him step-for-step for a good long while, until I said, "Sam, I'm going to sit down for a minute. I want you to play right here, and I will be watching you."
As I sat down, this little girl ran up to her mom, breathless with excitement. "Mom! You have to see this! It's so exciting!"
The mom wasn't having it. "Your job is to play. My job is to sit and watch you. I'm not walking all the way over there. Just go play."
I was absolutely flabbergasted. I'm never going to be that parent, I thought, and I immediately stood up to play with Sam again.
And now here I was in one of the coolest places on earth, and I felt I had basically told my kids the same thing that this woman told her daughter. I had become that parent. I immediately put my phone back in my pocket, and I sat there waiting for my boys...hoping they wouldn't be gone too long.
Within a minute, they came running back. "We found the coolest thing!"
"Really? Wow... will you show me?" I said.
"Sure! But..." said Ben.
"But what?" I asked.
"But you might not fit... it's pretty tight," said Sam.
"Well, if it's too tight, I will go back the way I came and wait for you at the exit, and then you can show me something else."
And for the rest of the day (save for their foray into the ball pit the size of a swimming pool), I crawled, slid, climbed, and ran every step with them.
Yet I still couldn't shake my overwhelming and irrational thought that I had somehow failed my boys.
That is, until yesterday. We had my parents over for dinner and I was telling them the story. Instead of them consoling me, which is what I expected, I got this little gem from my dad: "The best thing you could have done was to have them go off on their own."
"You needed the break from them," he reasoned, "but they also needed the break from you. They needed to explore on their own, to make new discoveries, get into trouble, find their own treasures. They were untethered, independent, emboldened. And then when they got back to you, they were able to take you on an adventure that they found for you, when it's almost always the other way around."
I'm excited to try the experiment again on our future adventures, but to be honest, I'm also a little sad. The days of them needing me for everything are over, and it's not something I'll ever get back. It's sometimes hard to come to grips with the fact that they don't need you on the slide anymore, they don't need you to push the swing, they don't need you blaze new trails for them, or to fight their battles, or to do so many things.
I've been a dad for ten years, and it has flown in the blink of an eye. But while I will miss the days that are now just my memories, I can't wait to see the adventures they have in store for me.
Well, maybe I can wait a little bit...