Monday, January 17, 2011
It’s generally understood by parents that our kids only listen to a certain percentage of what we say. It depends on a number of factors which include, but are not limited to: the time of day, their level of hunger, their level of sleep and whether or not the current TV show they’re watching is a “new one.” We know this, and may or may not stress certain things over others depending on our mood and whether or not we want to make a specific point to them.
I was reminded about this important concept during a recent trip we took to the snowy mountains atop the Palm Springs Tramway. The day began just as we had planned. We got an early start out to Palm Springs. Traffic was light, so we made it to the tramway entrance in about an hour and twenty-five minutes. While waiting for our scheduled tram to arrive, I excused myself to use the bathroom. I’m an adult; I know my limits. I’m also of the belief that it's sometimes better to use the facilities out of convenience, than just out of necessity.
After a beautifully scenic and increasingly cold tram ride, we reached the lodge at the top of the mountain. We were teased by snippets of snowy landscape along the way. There were branches with thick layers of snow on top of them and other branches with icicles dripping from the morning sunlight. We even spotted small animal paw prints left in the snow at the sheer rock’s edge.
While still inside the lodge, I asked what I thought was a logical question, “Does anyone have to go to the bathroom before we get started outside?” I could have heard a pin drop after asking the question. My small audience reacted to me with a series of shoulder shrugs and nods indicating a negative response. “OK,” I said. “Let’s go.” I’m not in the habit of patronizing my girls as if they were five year olds. If they don’t need to go, I can’t make them go.
It had been a while since I had been out in the snow. Skiing is one thing, but being out in snow covered nature is a different experience entirely. The snow was dry and powdery. The only sounds breaking the silence were the melting icicles dripping from the tall trees and a stream running over rocks and ice formations. I had the entire family stop and listen to the, all too foreign, quiet voice of the Earth. “You don’t get to hear this sound very often in your life. Enjoy and memorize this while we’re here.”
I introduced the girls to one of my strong childhood memories: eating snow. I showed them how to carefully push away the top crust portion and then scoop up the soft unexposed snow. It was flaky, cold and melted quickly on our tongues. It was refreshing in a unique way. We walked by a patch of snow that had a blue tint. “Don’t eat the snow over there,” I said. “Oh, and don’t eat yellow snow.” The girls laughed.
We reached the end of a snow trail and walked up some snow covered rocks, revealing a spectacular view of the valley beneath us. I was at once completely aware of my small place in the world. “Daddy,” my daughter interrupted, “I have to go to the bathroom.” I told her, as firmly yet compassionately as I could, that she was going to have to go right there. I wasn’t going to walk all the way back to the lodge just so she could pee.
We left the mountains that day with the surroundings just as pristine as when we got there, except for that one little patch of yellow snow.